He Said Review: ‘Corpse’ whisks, ‘Heaven’ wallows | PostIndependent.com
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He Said Review: ‘Corpse’ whisks, ‘Heaven’ wallows

For coming out at the same time, and sharing the same offbeat subject – loving the nearly and dearly departed – two new movies hold little in common.”Corpse Bride” opened in the big-city theaters two weeks ago and spread to smaller venues last weekend, and “Just Like Heaven” opened nationwide last weekend. By coincidence, their subject matter seemed very similar: In the former, a skittish fiancé accidentally marries a corpse; in the latter, a brokenhearted man suspects his new roommate might be bound to another plane.But for all that common ground and plot -and the No. 2 and No. 3 spots at the box office, respectively – these are two wildly dissimilar movies in intent, look and tone.”Just Like Heaven” sets that tone immediately with, you probably guessed, the Cure song of the same name. While the original version, about as poppy as the Cure got, would be appropriate for the movie, the gooey, ethereal cover by Katie Melua that leads off the soundtrack sets the stage for what viewers are about to get. (There’s another song of the same vintage out there that encapsulates the movie “Just Like Heaven” even better, but its title would give away its only decent twist. Besides, naming movies after Cure songs is risky enough – no director in his right mind would cull a title from the Smiths catalogue …)Matter of fact, the most fun I had with both movies was trying to come up with a score of late-80s and 90s alt-pop for either or both. The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” wouldn’t be out of place with the bubblegum-goth feel of “Corpse Bride,” Tim Burton’s latest foray into animation reminded me more of the two covers of the same song: Like both Dinosaur Jr.’s barnstorming lo-fi “Just Like Heaven” and Goldfinger’s blistering ska version, “Corpse Bride” is fun, engaging and over way too soon. Maybe the reason I was thinking of cover songs is “Corpse Bride” plays like a sequel to Burton’s 1993 animated “Nightmare Before Christmas.”Even though digital technology that wasn’t available to Burton in the early 90s helps smooth out the edges of “Corpse Bride,” the same stop-motion animation that propelled “Nightmare” drives both movies. They’ve also got the same flaw – all that painstaking craftsmanship translates to very little screen time, and viewers barely get a chance to soak in the ambience before the rollicking adventure whisks the titular bride (the voice of Helena Bonham Carter) and her groom (Johnny Depp) toward a resolution.By contrast, “Just Like Heaven” just wallows. It’s only 95 minutes, but it seems far longer. Maybe that’s because heartbroken David Abbott (Mark Ruffalo) and type-A doctor Elizabeth Masterson (Reese Witherspoon) are scarcely more believable than the cartoon characters in “Corpse Bride.” Or maybe it’s because for all the madcap careening – and it’s laugh-out-loud funny at times – “Just Like Heaven” stays firmly on the conventional romantic-comedy track.Ultimately, “Corpse Bride” is a more fun ride into the hereafter. Burton and Co. are just playing around, whereas with “Just Like Heaven” – like that Smiths song – I know it’s serious.


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