DECEMBER 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 12


Sleepy Hollow
Toy Story 2

Anywhere But Here: The stars shine in this oversentimental rendering.
The Green Mile: King adaptation suffers from a drawn-out plot and a sanctimonious attitude.

Fight Club
The Insider


Short Takes
Grading from A-F

Toy Story 2 Woody is captured by a toy collector, and Buzz launches the plastic Delta Force to spring him. Trouble is, Woody doesn't want to come back. Pixar's incredible animation surpasses the original and "A Bug's Life", while adding extra goodies this time like human arms with functional elbows. Adult-friendly, and loads of fun for the kids. A-

An effective film that surrealistically describes the status of the American male at the end of the 20th century: disenchanted, unfulfilled, castrated and looking for a way out. At times equally exhilarating, insightful, funny and inscrutable, "Fight Club" has enough ideas for five films and story lines for three, pushing well beyond two hours in length and exhausting the audience's attention span in the process. [More]

- Dan Sullivan, Tim Clifton

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Sleepy Hollow - Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Casper van
Dien, Michael Gambon,  Tim Burton

Rating: B

Starring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Casper van Dien, Michael Gambon. Directed by Tim Burton. Written by Andrew Kevin Walker, based on the story by Washington Irving. Rated R. Running time: 105 minutes.

Sleepy Hollow - Christina Ricci and Johnny Depp


Folk tales exist because they are reinterpreted and reworked by new generations. Tim Burton helps this tradition with his new film "Sleepy Hollow", based on the classic tale of the Headless Horseman by Washington Irving.

Johnny Depp ("The Astronaut's Wife", "Edward Scissorhands", "Ed Wood") plays Constable Ichabod Crane, sent to rural New York by a judge (played by Christopher Lee, a veteran of countless horror films from the Hammer studio which no doubt inspired Burton's take on this legend) to investigate a series of decapitation murders. Crane is a man of science, convinced that answers can be investigated and proven by scientific method. This film is like Caleb Carr's "The Alienist" plopped down in the middle of a ghost story.

The story is familiar, kind of a 19th century urban (colonial) legend, but the execution is fresh and original. Unfortunately that's not quite enough to carry the film completely. The first part is atmospheric and brisk at the same time, as Crane investigates the murders as well as falling for Katrina Von Tassel (Christina Ricci). The period detail is wonderful, from the ash and chalk atmosphere of Sleepy Hollow to the flashbacks Crane has of his mother, tortured for being a witch. Unfortunately, a convoluted plot involving a will and a real villain you will never guess gum things up in the second half. The exposition to explain the whole workings is labored and doesn't fit the thrill of enjoying the unfolding tale. This explanation is complex and you feel you need a lawyer to verify it. It jars the flow of the story.

These reservations aside, the visuals are exceptionally well done, from tendrils of fog that extinguish torches to the Tree of Death looking more like a leviathan than a member of the wood family. The Headless Horseman himself is a viciously frightening incarnation. Burton has a knack for details, such as the equipment that Depp uses to investigate the murder, to a covered bridge that raises your heartbeat whenever anyone passes through it.

The leads are all strong. Depp is perfect as Crane, a bookish investigator who nonetheless cowers under bed sheets after a particularly hair raising encounter with the Headless Horseman. Ricci is striking and fragile at the same time, torn between her attraction to Crane and secrets she does not want to reveal. The supporting cast is strong and numerous cameos (Martin Landau, Christopher Lee, Christopher Walken) add fullness to the story.

It's good to see Burton in fine form after the failure of "Mars Attacks!" and the difficulty in reworking a new take on another legend in Superman. Burton is back on track with this frequently exciting interpretation of a classic tale, that owes more than a little to an animated film he produced called "The Nightmare Before Christmas". Burton manages to combine whimsy, humor and fear in a way that is unique. A lot of what makes his films appealing is that you never know which reaction you're going to have next and "Sleepy Hollow" follows suit.

TIM CLIFTON is Renaissance Online Magazine's staff movie reviewer.

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