Sleepy Hollow (1999) – A great interpretation of a great classic

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Sleepy Hollow (1999) – A great interpretation of a great classic
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I thoroughly enjoyed this collaboration between Tim Burton, Andrew Kevin Walker and Washington Irving. Combining such incredible talents as Mr. Burton and Mr. Walker proved quite the appropriate recipe for recreating the Irving classic. I have read may other comments about this movie and I find it very disturbing that most people either compare it to Star Wars: Phantom Menace or complain that it is too far removed from the original story.

Sleepy Hollow (1999) - A great interpretation of a great classic
Sleepy Hollow (1999) – A great interpretation of a great classic

For these people I have a few comments. First, the only connections and comparisons to Star Wars are the actor Ian McDiarmid and the actor/stuntman Ray Park. Beyond that there is nothing within this movie that comes remotely close to a comparison to Star Wars. In my opinion this movie was better than that box office behemoth. If *****had spent as much time on his script for ***, perhaps it would have been as intriguing as Sleepy Hollow. Next, for those who were not satisfied with the movie’s departure from the Irving classic I have but one piece of advice: read the story again. Washington Irving was masterful at creating scenes and setting atmosphere but The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was a 20 page examination of the little village and the loves of Ichabod Crane (women, food, writings et al) The Horseman, though mentioned a handful of times, did not appear until the last couple pages and then it alluded to the idea that Brom Bones was the culprit, in disguise, to frighten the poor hero Ichabod.

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There have been other writings and interpretations of the Sleepy Hollow story that focus more on the spectral form of the Headless Horseman. I believe this movie was done in the spirit of those other works and is among the best. It brings to life the setting of this little valley and attempts to recreate the feeling that Washington Irving described best in his story. It was indicated that Sleepy Hollow was a magical and dream like place, thus the name “Sleepy Hollow.” In this little upstate valley the strangest things occur and such ghosts and goblins roam freely if only in the mind of the inhabitants. Tim Burton manages to capture that sensation and allows the audience to feel as if they stepped not into a theater, but another world.

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Andrew Kevin Walker’s workup and translation of the story also makes for a compelling movie. Allowing the changes for the movie adaptation were a sign of genius. Displacing the hero and introducing him to the Sleepy Hollow atmosphere along with the audience, enhanced the experience. Giving a clear background for the Horseman, which is only briefly provided in the original story, was also an improvement to the movie’s story. Let’s face it, if they had made a 105 minute movie that tried to replicate the original short story there would have been whole theaters full of “sleepy” patrons.

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The acting was also superb giving a hand to Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci for fabulous performances. As for the rest of the cast? Fantastic. To see all of these wonderful actors in secondary roles was a treat. Starting with Christopher Lee as the chief magistrate in New York; Jeffrey Jones, Michael Gough, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson and even Casper Van Dien all did magnificent work.

Though the story lagged at moments, they were few and far between. The editing in the beginning was a bit choppy but ran more fluently after the 20-30 minute point. An excellent adaptation of a great story. This was definitely a movie that Burton was born to make.

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