[box cover]

Sleepy Hollow

For a film about severing people in two, Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow can be cut into several sections, each of which have varying results. Adapting Washington Irving's classic story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow with a liberal hand (i.e., chucking out most of it), Burton directs Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane, a timid New York City constable with an eye for scientific criminal investigations. But when Crane declares his fierce commitment to rational deduction before a New York judge, the young man is sent upstate to the small town of Sleepy Hollow, where a recent series of beheadings have caused many of the local residents to believe that the ghost of a dead warrior is terrorizing the village after dark. Once there, Crane has little luck disproving the existence of a homicidal phantom, but he also unearths a conspiracy in the small town involving prominent local officials, and also possibly involving the young, fetching Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci). Many of Sleepy Hollow's best moments are a result of its special effects, as well as the moody, gothic art direction, and thankfully the "headless horseman" is no marketing gimmick — rather, we get to see plenty of the black-garbed spook, and the effect is always amazing (the numerous decapitations in the film are also well done, and often seem more funny than actually gruesome). Other great moments from the film come in the first third, as Depp underplays the eccentric Crane with shrill arguments, strange inventions, and an unfortunate trait of fainting when under stress. With a solid lead like Depp, a classic horror story, and wonderful visuals, only a shoddy script could derail Sleepy Hollow — unfortunately, Burton had one handy. Much of the quirkiness in the first part of the movie, as Crane struggles to explain away the inexplicable, gives way to a Sherlock Holmes-like whodunit in the middle part of the film that is uninteresting and at times hard to follow. Regrettably, by the time Burton offers up a slam-bang ending, it's a hackneyed mess, with a rickety windmill lifted directly from James Whale's Frankenstein and a carriage-chase stolen from James Cameron's Terminator flicks. It's cheesy fun, but we normally expect a director of Burton's stature to come up with something more original. Also starring Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, and Christopher Walken. Excellent transfer, DD 5.1 or 2.0 Dolby Surround. Includes a commentary track with Burton; the 30-minute making-of doc "Behind the Legend"; an 11-minute interview sequence with Burton, Depp, Ricci, and others; a photo gallery; two trailers; and cast-and-crew notes.
—JJB



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