SLEEPY HOLLOW

Directed by Tim Burton

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, though 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 and Winona in Dracula, he and Ricci seem pitted against their eloquent dialogue, which comes off as stilted and cute as in a high-school play. ("Perhaps there is a bit of witch in you, Katrina." "Why do you say that?" "Because you bewitched me!")

This nattering on is cushioned, thankfully, by the presence of veterans like Gambon, Richardson and Griffiths (whom it's a delight to see again after his turn as sweet and lecherous Uncle Monty in Withnail and 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!) 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 on 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."

Opens Nov. 19.

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