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Sleepy Hollow Review

By Joe Lozito

Gray Anatomy


Director Tim Burton creates films with a visual texture that is palpable. The forest, the mist, the ... beheadings. They all come to life, sometimes too vividly, in "Sleepy Hollow", Mr. Burton's adaptation of the Washington Irving short story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".

Mr. Burton teams up again with Johnny Depp, one of the finest actors around, who gives a restrained, foppish performance as Icabod Crane, the constable (no longer a schoolteacher) assigned to determine the cause of a series of beheadings in the title town. The film presents an Icabod who believes in "crime detection" and doesn't buy into the tales of a ghost rider chopping off heads "where he finds them". Essentially, Icabod is Scully without the Mulder. And, since the film never follows through on the fact vs. fiction debate which is at the heart of any good "X-file", Mr. Depp is left to stare dumb-founded at the gory goings-on. And there are many. So many, in fact, that it is unclear if there will be a town left after the film is over.

Also along for the ride is Christina Ricci, unable to play her usual Goth-freak-chick in a movie that could have used one. As Katrina Van Tassel, Ms. Ricci is toned down further than the gray hues in the film. She is given little to do, and her scenes with Mr. Depp, though sweet, don't amount to much.

Ultimately, the script by Andrew Kevin Walker ("Seven") let's Mr. Burton down. Mr. Walker has taken the basic ingredients of the original tale and turned it into an 18th century slasher film, complete with explosions, a rehashed carriage chase and the Headless Horsemen as a sword-wielding Terminator-rip-off. There is also an out-of-place subplot involving Icabod's childhood, revealed through a series of obvious dream sequences, which seems to have been tacked on only to provide a role for Mr. Burton's girlfriend, the lovely and ample Lisa Marie.

What's missing from "Sleepy Hollow" is the inspiration and the joy of Mr. Burton's best work ("Beetlejuice", "Ed Wood"). Occasionally, as is the norm, Mr. Depp shines through and adds some color - other than blood-red - to a film which looks great but, in the end, is not the sum of its body parts.

What did you think?

Movie title Sleepy Hollow
Release year 1999
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary Director Tim Burton creates films with a visual texture that is palpable.
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