Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sleepy Hollow

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship going with Tim Burton. His films tend to range pretty widely in quality, from the brilliant (Ed Wood and Big Fish) to the terrible (Batman and Planet of the Apes). While this one isn’t great, I would place it in the upper echelon of his films, sitting comfortably alongside films like The Corpse Bride and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (Hey, fuck you, I liked it).

It’s fairly impossible to watch this film without being consciously aware that it’s a Tim Burton movie. Everything in the entire movie has been twisted into a dreamlike version of a late 18th century world, with a muted color scheme and a layer of fog that even permeates indoors, keeping us in perpetual gloom to better accommodate the subject matter. Were this not the type of story that it is, it would probably be pretty annoying, but as it is it works very well.

The acting is mostly top notch too, with Johnny Depp leading the pack. Much was made of how he impersonated Keith Richards for his role in Pirates of the Caribbean; here, with Ichabod Crane changed from a schoolteacher to an investigator, he tackles the role by impersonating Angela Lansbury’s character from Murder She Wrote. It provides a level of off-kilter charm to the proceedings that are matched by the supporting performances of Jeffrey Jones, Michael Gambon, Christophers Walken and Lee, and others. Christina Ricci, as the love interest, is the only weak note in the cast, though in fairness she’s not really given much to do. She does manage to accomplish one of the key necessities for women in movies set in this type of time period, which is to have a suitably large chest that it can fill out a low-cut bodice, and she succeeds admirably here, as do all the other women in the cast. Outside of that, though, she’s not really given anything to do beyond looking frightened a lot.

This is kind of a fluffy film, and it falls into the standard trap of becoming a more standard film at the climax, but for most of its run it is extremely entertaining. Depp’s investigation, and the various tools he uses to carry it out, is a great deal of fun, and while the film is rated R for violence it’s really the sort that an early teen could easily handle. The film is kept to a light gloom, like an early Hammer film (perhaps this is why Christopher Lee has a cameo), and is one of the most consistently enjoyable films Burton has ever made.

Rating: ***

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