Vault Movie Review: "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad"
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Mr. Toad (Basil Rathbone) is extremely wealthy and is the owner of the historic Toad Hall. His family has lived in this manor for generations, and the community looks to it as a symbol of success. However, Mr. Toad has been having a bit of a crisis. He has become obsessed—has developed a mania of sorts—with a new horse and buggie. He purchased the horse and buggie spontaneously, left his old friend Angus MacBadger (Campbell Grant) in charge of the books at Toad Hall, and has been rampaging across town in his new purchase. He has built up a collection of bills for damages during his endeavors, but something new has caught his eye, a motor-car! Swapping out one mania for another, Mr. Toad's new obsession will certainly get him in more trouble than his last.
In another story, narrated by Bing Crosby, Ichabod Crane is new to the town of Sleepy Hollow. It is a small town, and Ichabod is fancied by most of the women there, despite the local ladies' man Brom Bones' best efforts. When the lovely Katrina comes to town, the two compete for her affection. However, late one evening after a party at Katrina's manor, Ichabod is alone in the woods and begins to suspect that he is being followed by the legendary Headless Horseman.
The Pros & Cons
Mr. Toad's Addiction & Katrina (+4pts)
Mr. Toad's Proof (-3pts)
Toad Hall (+5pts)
Mr. Toad's Ending (-2pts)
Ichabod & The Headless Horseman (+6pts)
Ichabod's Relevance (-3pts)
Pro: Mr. Toad's Addiction & Katrina (+4pts)
The filmmakers had a ways to go before reaching the climax of Mr. Toad's story. They made this road entertaining through their focus on Mr. Toad's mania. His mania was amusing, very self-destructive, and it delivered a few surprises along the way. The viewer is able to relate to Water Rat (Claud Allister) and Mole (Colin Campbell), because like them, the viewer has no idea how far Mr. Toad would go to satisfy his mania, or where his mania would take him next. The mania was silly, it kept me guessing, and it most importantly kept me entertained as the story grew closer toward its climax.
Then there was the competition over Katrina in Ichabod's story. I liked the back and forth between Ichabod and Brom Bones, and I liked how oblivious Katrina was to the extent of it. It was not that the story played Katrina to be dumb, but rather, the story showed Ichabod's sly way of dealing with the Brom Bones obstacle. It made for a number of silly and entertaining moments that I enjoyed watching, and it made it easy to get invested in Ichabod's pursuit of Katrina.
Con: Mr. Toad's Proof (-3pts)
I know I have to suspend disbelief a bit for a movie like this one, but even after accepting the world that was setup in this story, I found it a little hard to believe that Mr. Toad's innocence could not have been proved more easily. No one wanted to go check out Toad Hall? No one wanted to go check out the manor that served as a monument, of sorts, for the local community? It seemed hard to believe that no one would have swung by the manor, especially considering what was happening with Mr. Toad. Again, knowing the type of movie, I am more forgiving of this issue than I otherwise would have been, but it was worth mentioning.
Pro: Toad Hall (+5pts)
I know everyone is worried about The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, so fear not, I have no intention of spoiling this movie and will keep this point both brief and vague (you are welcome). Anyway, I really liked the climax of Mr. Toad's story. It had the suspense of getting caught, had a clear goal, had a bunch of protagonists who were in way over their heads, and a ton of antagonists that could not quite get the job done. It was a funny scene, was chaotic in the silliest way, and it ended up being pretty entertaining to see how the whole thing would turn out.
Pro: Mr. Toad's Ending (-2pts)
Okay, so I get part of the ending to Mr. Toad’s story, but another part makes no sense at all. I understood the part related to Mr. Toad’s innocence. Trying to prove that was the whole point of the climax of this story, so I understand that part of the ending. What I do not understand is the fate of Toad Hall.
Based on Mr. Toad’s actions earlier, the fate of Toad Hall and Mr. Toad’s innocence were two separate issues. Proving Mr. Toad’s innocence would in no way solve the Toad Hall problem, but the filmmakers just pretended that you could handle these two birds with one stone. However, it made no sense to do this. Instead, it was like the filmmakers left out a chunk of this story, related to resolving the ownership of Toad Hall. The just resolved Mr. Toad's innocence, and implied that it was enough of a conclusion, when it really should not have been. It is another issue where the type of movie makes me more forgiving of the issue, but it was still worth noting.
Pro: Ichabod & The Headless Horseman (+6pts)
Once Ichabod's story finally got to the part with the Headless Horseman, I was totally invested. I liked the song, sung by Brom Bones. I liked Ichabod thinking he was being tailed, and the truth behind the noises that he was hearing. I liked the fear that both Ichabod and his horse felt over what may have been following them. Finally, I liked how isolated Ichabod felt in the woods. I had no idea how far Ichabod was from town, but I definitely felt that he was too far away from where he needed to be, which increased the sense of danger. I liked the beginning of Ichabod's story, but I really enjoyed the climax (everything that happened in this story, beginning with Brom Bones' song).
Con: Ichabod's Relevance (-3pts)
I liked the beginning of Ichabod's story. The Headless Horseman stuff really only happened at the climax of the story. However, everything that lead up to that was something very different. I thought the writers of this movie could have done a much better job of making the two parts of this story feel related to one another. The main part of Ichabod's story was the rising action, and was all about Ichabod integrating into Sleepy Hollow, and trying to win over Katrina's affection. The climax of the story was all about Ichabod potentially crossing paths with the Headless Horseman.
I liked both parts of the story, but they felt like very separate things. The whole Katrina storyline was completely irrelevant to the Headless Horseman storyline. It was almost as if the writers were building the Katrina storyline, and building the Katrina storyline some more, only to pivot and go in a completely different direction by introducing the idea of the Headless Horseman. If I had to pick one story to keep, I would go with the Headless Horseman stuff, because that was a lot more interesting. I would have started Ichabod's story with Brom Bones' song about the Headless Horseman, and would have just gone from there. I get that the writers would have had to add a lot to increase the run-time, perhaps by having Ichabod think back on his pursuit of Katrina through flashbacks while making his way through the woods. That is just one option, but reorganizing how this story was told to some extent could have gone a long way in making Ichabod's story feel more coherent.
Grade: B- (82pts)
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is a collection of two short stories. The first is about Mr. Toad's passion for motorcars, and what that passion costs him. The second is about Ichabod Crane's pursuit of Katrina, and his run-in the Headless Horseman. Both stories had their strengths and weaknesses, but this was ultimately a decent movie.
Mr. Toad's story seemed to suffer from some lazy writing, with a case that should have been easy to prove, and an ending that made no sense. However, Mr. Toad's addiction was entertaining, and the climax of his story was a lot of fun. Ichabod's pursuit of Katrina worked really well, and everything regarding the Headless Horseman was really entertaining, but I thought the writers could have done a much better job at connecting these two parts of Ichabod's story. At the end of the day, both stories had some relatively minor issues, but it was still a decent movie.