Not to trot

It may look cool, but Sleepy Hollow cuts off its head to spite its story

Speaking of bludgeoning, it seems that on-again-off-again Burton collaborator Danny Elfman has suffered a partial hearing loss. Either that, or he wasn't given adequate time to summon up a suitable score, because the music in Sleepy Hollow, while composed of pleasingly familiar elements, vacillates between bombast and clutter, offering not a single memorable theme. The movie also feels rushed and impatient in its cutting, which further detracts.

Depp is charismatic and winning in the lead role, but he's no more Ichabod Crane than Jack Nicholson was the Joker. He's obviously aware that his physicality is entirely wrong for the part, so he compensates with slightly gawky delivery. Like Keanu Reeves and Wynona Ryder in Dracula, he and Ricci seem pitted against their eloquent dialogue, which comes off stilted and cute as in a high-school play. ("Perhaps there is a bit of witch in you, Katrina," he tells her. "Why do you say that?" "Because you bewitched me!")

This nattering on is cushioned, thankfully, by the presence of veterans such as Gambon, Richardson, and Griffiths (whom it's a delight to see again after his turn as sweet and lecherous Uncle Monty in Withnail & I). As the headed Horseman, Walken narrowly escapes looking like a complete idiot, growling and thrashing like some bastard child of Sid Vicious (hair) and Dee Snyder (fangs). (Ah, the directorial power of, "Perfect! Gimme more of that!")

Them's some cool shades ya got there, Ichabod. Lenscrafters?
Them's some cool shades ya got there, Ichabod. Lenscrafters?

Details

Directed by Tim Burton
Written by Andrew Kevin Walker, based on the story by Washington Irving
Starring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, and Christopher Walken
Opens Friday

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Sleepy Hollow is punctuated by entrancing elements (Ichabod's dreams, a young boy's magic lantern, the motif of the cardinal, a diabolical tree straight out of Edward Gorey), but these delights are too often buried by a barrage of noise following seconds thereafter. This hasty pacing makes for a rich and exciting movie, but not an especially spooky or spellbinding one. If only the writer had reflected upon Irving's description of "a contagion in the very air that blew from that haunted region; it breathed forth an atmosphere of dreams and fancies infecting all the land."

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