The story is simple enough to fit within a sentence or two (even fewer if we use run-on sentences). Here goes: Victor, uncomfortable with his betrothal to Victoria, is practicing his vows in the forest and accidentally proposes marriage to the corpse of a wrongfully murdered woman (and really, what other kind of murdered woman is there?), setting her free from the curse that bound her. Now Vic's married to a corpse and some jerk with a big chin who sounds like Richard E. Grant is trying to horn in on Victoria.
Tim Burton has gotten himself into an enviable position where he's marketable and reliable enough to be able to work for major studios on his own terms. The upshot of this is that since he's so obsessed with aesthetics, Corpse Bride ends up being visually exquisite, and that's really why we like Tim Burton in the first place. This movie is even lusher than his usual, possibly because stop-motion allows even greater control over exactly what ends up onscreen. Anyway, there's so much stuff going on in the movie that I want to see it again.
Casting is fantastic, which is to say that it's not bad. As far as voice acting is concerned, unremarkable is the same as fantastic. If I recognize a celebrity's voice and I like it, that's cool. If a voice sticks out as unfit for the character, or if the actor does a lousy job, that's poor casting. When nothing stands out about the voice acting, that means the casting director has done a good job. Most of the voice acting fell into that latter category, and the exceptions were all voices I recognized.
Danny Elfman's music was interesting. The orchestral score frequently references Friedrich Smetana's Die Moldau (MIDI here, if you're interested). There are songs in Corpse Bride, but not enough for it to be considered a musical. The advertising made no mention of this, and I can only assume that it was a deliberate choice since the American moviegoing public don't think they like musicals. The songs are perfect for the tone of the film, but as in The Nightmare Before Christmas, they're not very catchy the first time around. I don't think anybody's going to be humming them on the way out of the theater.
The only real criticism I have regarding Corpse Bride is that it was short, clocking in at 76 minutes. Disney has become notorious for releasing short features to children from having their bladders explode and their parents from having a nervous breakdown, but Corpse Bride is a little less child-friendly than, say, One Hundred and One Dalmations. There won't be many toddlers in attendance. Perhaps it was to save the sanity of the filmmakers? Stop-motion animation must be a particularly thankless task while it's in progress.
The showing wasn't as packed as I'd expected it to be, but I hope Corpse Bride does well at the box office. It's also contending with the power of a supenseful thriller* and a crappy remake starring Reese Witherspoon. Given its dark subject matter and nihilistic view of the afterlife, Corpse Bride is definitely going to take a beating from the Sort of Busybodies Who Know What's Best for Other People's Kids. It might be too scary for a five-year-old (what with the skeletons and the murder and the guy with a big chin), but the PG rating fits. The trailers present the content of the film accurately enough that any parent should be able to tell whether it's an appropriate movie for his or her kids. I mention this because I'm sure you all have children whom you haven't told me about yet.
Those who've paid attention through this whole post may be wondering how it constitutes "relatively short." The key word is "relatively," and the proof is right here.
* At this point in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 send-up of this post, Crow T. Robot will be heard to mutter, "as opposed to what, a boring thriller?"