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In this episode: Sleepy Hollow
I suppose you could say this is your typical Tim Burton movie. Good atmosphere, spooky cinematography, dark tone, but underdeveloped storyline and overreaching and therefore ridiculous ending.

Sleepy Hollow's story is less underdeveloped than it is silly. Perhaps it's overdeveloped, now that I think about it. The attempt to modernize the tale by making Ichabod a NYC cop and including a tale of greed involving inheritance and revenge is just ludicrous. But not unwatchable. The movie gets tedious and predictable, but there's enough to keep you with it most of the way through. Since it's just before Thanksgiving, I'll be brief. I know we all have turkeys to shuck.

The cinematography is gorgeous. Emmanuel Lubezki has some impressive work under his belt, even if the movies themselves are not all gems. Here's a sample: Great Expectations, Meet Joe Black, The Birdcage, and A Little Princess. Emmanuel seems to have a better grasp on Sleepy Hollow than Tim Burton does. If you see this movie, just let the images wash over you like fog.

Johnny Depp is really good, as usual. I read in Entertainment Weekly that he played his Ichabod as a 13-year-old girl. I didn't understand how this was a good idea until I saw the movie. Johnny is the outsider in Sleepy Hollow, and so the goings on confront his city-bred sensibilities without mercy. Johnny faints, squeals, jumps up on chairs, and makes these hilarious sour faces like the priss his Ichabod is. Johnny's a big reason Sleepy Hollow is watchable at all.

Christina Ricci is very good, too, but she plays a more innocent girl than usual. Don't expect to see her cutting wit here. She's tied down, unfortunately, and while I don't begrudge her this role and the money and recognition with which it comes, I do wish Tim had tried a little harder to invent something more for her to do.

Likewise with Miranda Richardson (who has a perfect American accent, by the way). Her's is a fairly quiet role that turns meaty, but her character's meatiness doesn't appear until to movie gets into its cliché phase. Near the end, it's all explication for her, and that's just lazy moviemaking. Too bad. Miranda's too good for this movie.

Since I got to destroy Denise Richards in my Bond review, I wish I could destroy her Starship Troopers co-star, Casper Van Dien, who I assume Tim cast solely because his name is that of the friendly ghost. But Casper is given very little to do, and so he's okay. Can't trash him here, I'm afraid.

I can't not mention Christopher Walken, and so I shant.

ILM's visual effects are excellent. The headless horseman himself is impressive and correctly ominous. There are some gruesome but flawlessly-rendered beheadings. The writhing roots of that tree look really fakey, but there's a lot more to like than not where the effects are concerned.

Mostly, this movie just feels like it's going through the motions. It's not nearly as bad as The World Is Not Enough, which barely even went through the motions, but, again, there's a spark missing here that would bring the movie into the realm of something exciting to watch. It's not as disorganized and humorless as Mars Attacks (I know a lot of people like that one, but I just can't), but it's not as clever or engaging as Edward Scissorhands. Worst of all, it's not scary. Sleepy Hollow is not scary. I can see Tim slapping his head during the premiere and saying, "Damn! I forgot to make it scary!" Oops.

Take this one in if you need something to do over the holiday. It's diverting enough, and is certainly better than washing dishes.

 

—Steve

11/24/99

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©1999 Steven Lekowicz except
Sleepy Hollow image © Paramount Pictures and Mandalay Pictures LLC. All Rights Reserved.