Sleepy Hollow is the latest incarnation of Washington Irving's tale about a Headless Horseman, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".In this version of the story (adapted by Kevin Yagher and Andrew Kevin Walker), Ichabod Crane is a member of the fledgling 1799 New York police force. He's raised the ire of the judiciary by advocating forensic science as a means of solving crimes. He's dispatched to the small town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate several murders, which the townsfolk insist are the work of a Headless Horseman.
The films of director Tim Burton always have a distinctive look and a great sense of visual style (for example: contrast Ed Wood, Batman Returns and Mars Attacks!). The technical work in Sleepy Hollow is outstanding. When he couldn't find an appropriate location, Burton had the village built on a soundstage. The production design, costumes and Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography all contribute to the film's eerie, fairy tale quality. And the visual and aural effects create an awesome, terrifying Horseman. A word of warning to the squeamish - there are decapitations aplenty during this film!
Johnny Depp puts in another fine performance for Burton, and consciously based his response to the murders on how he imagined a teenage girl would react. The effect is not overdone, and makes for a satisfyingly unusual action hero. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast aren't as focused or as interesting as Depp. Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) is wooden as a post, and didn't leave the picture quick enough for my taste. The usually reliable Christina Ricci seems very unsure of herself, and Miranda Richardson's been here before. The four elderly conspirators (among them Michaels Gough and Gambon) are all good, and Martin Landau is just right in his uncredited cameo in the opening sequence.In retrospect, Sleepy Hollow is fairly hit and miss. But the action sequences, for once, are sufficient to justify seeing this film. The rapid pace and rollicking direction smooth over the sillier plot intricacies, and the picture is so good to look at and listen to that any flat patches sweep by faster than the Horseman.