I went into this movie with very low expectations, and I was still let down. "Corpse Bride" is a frustrating experience because it takes a lot of skilled and talented people, then wastes their talents on a lazy, uninspired production.
The script feels like a first draft, where someone threw in a bunch of half-baked ideas and meant to turn them into something good later, but he just never got around to it. For example: We first meet our hero, Victor, in a room with scientific gear, studying a butterfly. His interest in science never shows up again, even though it would be so much fun to see a scientist react to all the magic in the film. Later the spirit of Victor's dead dog comes back; Victor is delighted at first, then he just ignores his dog for the rest of the film.
Victor's parents are earnest, decently-interesting characters who have a huge role for the whole first half of the film... then, suddenly, they're written out of the movie in the most random and stupid manner possible, never to be mentioned again.
We visit the Land of the Dead, where some spirits party all the time, but other spirits work crappy jobs sweeping the streets for no clear reason. Are these spirits just stuck in this afterlife forever? If so, why are there only like 15 people in the Land of the Dead? The very end of the film suggests that they move on to eternal rest (or reincarnation? it's vague) after they find peace, but nothing else in the film ever even hints at this idea, so it comes out of nowhere in the last few seconds.
This is a problem when Emily, The Corpse Bride herself, is a major character, but we never learn what she can or can't do. She can apparently talk to animals and do some other magic. It sure would be fun to see more of her magical abilities, but this movie just can't bother to use that much imagination.
But I must give special attention to the biggest "screw you" to the audience: Victoria's subplot. To sum it up: She sees that Victor is in trouble; she wants to go help him, but her parents tell her to calm down and lock her in her room. So she makes a tense and daring escape! We root for her character and want to see her succeed! But instead, the first person she asks for help just brings her back home, and she's locked in again. The entire scene was a complete waste of time.
This would be disappointing enough. But THEN, her parents tell her they will marry her to a sleazy new suitor. Victoria has been totally dynamic up to this point, and now she has more reason than ever to go find Victor and set things right... but she just gives up instead. The screenwriter got so lazy that he just made her clam up & obey her parents, even though this goes against everything we've learned about her character. For a short time, Victoria is the most likable, proactive character, and then she suddenly turns into a complete wimp.
Unless you have very, very low standards, stuff like the above subplot will leave you feeling cheated, betrayed, and even a little disgusted with the laziness and shoddiness of the story.
My heart bled for all the hard-working animators who put countless hours of work and effort into this film, only to create an embarrassing, ridiculous waste of time because the writing-directing team was so shamefully lazy. The same goes for the voice actors: most of the puppets are so sorely limited, it would be way more fun just to watch the actors saying their lines in a recording booth. (Christopher Lee especially suffers, as he ranges from bombastic to subtle, while his puppet character is stiff & listless.) It's a horrible waste of talent.