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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

I think I'm safe in saying that pretty much EVERYONE, at one point or another has seen Disney's animated version of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".  Well, if you're looking for a review of it today, you'd be wrong.  Today, I'm going to cover Tim Burton's reimagining of the classic tale...

New York City police constable, Ichabod Crane is assigned a mysterious murder case in the small hamlet of Sleepy Hollow.  Upon arrival, he is informed by the local dignitaries that the deaths are the work of the Headless Horseman... who is possibly taking the heads to replace his missing head.  While investigating, Ichabod becomes involved in the intrigue and mystery surrounding the Headless Horseman... a mystery that may just involve the woman he's attracted to...

Going into this review, I'm going to be very honest and plain about a few facts:

  • I've always enjoyed Tim Burton's films;
  • I've always enjoyed Johnny Depp's work;
  • I've always enjoyed Christina Ricci's work; and
  • I think Christopher Walken is an acting god.
What that said, I'll say that I really enjoyed "Sleepy Hollow".  The story is a nice, fresh look at the classic tale.  It retains many of the elements of the original, while taking it in a new direction.  Ichabod's slightly awkwardness, his faith in intellect- while still being a bit afraid of the supernatural, and humour are still very much present.  The humour, suspense, errieness, and fun of the original story are very much alive in this movie.  There is even a tip of the hat to the Disney version in the scene where Brock tosses the flaming pumpkin at Ichabod.

The cast was great as well.  Johnny Depp is well known for playing quirky characters, and was well suited from this role.  I came to like the character of Ichabod Crane, and quietly cheered him on throughout the movie.  I also enjoyed Christina Ricci as Katrina.  She looked beautiful- her face has an almost innocent look to it, while hinting at the maturity underneath.  The chemistry between her and Depp was great.

Many will know Ian McDiarmid from the "Harry Potter" movies, as Uncle Vernon.  In "Sleepy Hollow", he gives a great performance as Dr. Lancaster.  It's not a huge role, but one that's still enjoyable.  Michael Gough- who many will remember as Alfred from Tim Burton's "Batman" films plays Notary Hardenbrook, and does a wonderful job with another small role.  Also of note was Marc Pickering's role as Young Masbeth.  I quite like his character and the subtle humour he brought to the role.  Even with just a cameo at the beginning, Christopher Lee manages to own the scene he's in- his skill towering over us the way his character towered over Ichabod Crane.

And then there's Christopher Walken.  What can we say about him?  Just fantastic.  He's not in it much, but each scene is a joy watching him gnaw on the scenery- gnashing his teeth, snarling as his crazy hair rings his head like some demented electrical storm.  He doesn't say a word... but then he doesn't have to.

As is typical of a Tim Burton production, the colours are subdued and moody, allowing whatever blood that's shown to add the colour to a scene.  The sets and scenere all very much like a gothic storybook and almost dream like.  The costumes were phenomenal- showing off the personality and physical traits of the character wonderfully.  The special effects are simple but effective.  They helped to enhance the story without consuming it- and excellent example of old school film making using new technology.  The camera work was excellent too, with the editing creating an interesting and well paced story.

Sometimes, it's hard for me to find films that I'd want to watch more than once.  "Sleepy Hollow" is one of those films that I would watch repeatedly while munching on popcorn in a darkened room.  I have no problems sliding "Sleepy Hollow" into "The Good".

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