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Sleepy Hollow (1999)


I’ll be the first to admit I don’t really remember the details of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. But what I do remember, well, it didn’t go like this.

In typical Tim Burton fashion, a fairy tale gets an update (and the film’s color gets drained out in the process). The guts of Legend are still there: In 1799, evil headless horseman marauds a tiny village in upstate New York. Ichabod Crane (Depp) is sent to investigate.

Of course, something wicked this way comes, and a plot is uncovered — the details of which I’m still trying to get right in my head — but which involve just about every inbred member of this little town, most of whom are beheaded during the picture.

Depp nearly reprises his role as Edward Scissorhands as a quiet wallflower (sans scissors), and whiter-than-white Christina Ricci (as the magic-obsessed love interest) sticks out among the drab fogies in their powdered wigs like Bill Gates at the Playboy Mansion. The supporting cast is uniformly bland, just like the scenery (though the latter is intentional). The sole exception is Walken, who plays the horseman (when he has his head, at least) with typical aplomb.

So what’s the sum of the parts? What should have been a Halloween treat is instead a late-November humdrum flick worthy of a glance but little more. The story is obtuse yet unsurprising. The humor is sparse and occasionally funny. And while Burton’s signature is all over the film, his typical wit is not.

How will the film fare at the box office? I can’t rightly say, but I do know that a legion of junior high students is going to be disappointed, missing a whole lot of questions on their English Lit exams because of this movie.

Studio heads will roll.