The Brothers Grimm

3 stars


3rd September 2005

This is a very difficult review for me to write. The reason why has to do with the fact that I am a Terry Gilliam fanatic. I've seen every movie the guy has ever made, and I've managed to find something to love about each and every one of them (and yeah, that even includes The Adventures of Baron Münchausen). The guy is a true visionary, his entire catalogue ranging from merely good to downright great. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the funniest film ever made, Brazil is one of the great films of the 20th Century, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is an underappreciated classic, so I guess you could say I'm a Gilliam fan. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I must declare that, though it is not necessarily a bad film, The Brothers Grimm falls far short of Gilliam's other cinematic efforts.

Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm (MAAAATT DAAAAAMON and Heath Ledger respectively) are the titular brothers. Along with their accomplices, Hidlick (played by The Office's Mackenzie Crook) and Bunst (Richard Ridings), the brothers Grimm travel around the countryside of French-occupied Germany, vanquishing witches, demons, and other fantastic creatures, asking for just a pretty penny from the villagers in return. What the villagers don't know, however, is that none of it is real; it's all scam perpetrated by Will and Jake. Needless to say, their antics soon bring them to the attention of the French authorities in the form of the snobbish General Delatombe (Gilliam regular Jonathan Pryce) and his sniveling Italian toady, Cavaldi (Peter Stormare in full on annoying mode). Delatombe sends the brothers to the small village of Maberden, where 10 young girls have gone missing under mysterious circumstances. Thus, when the brothers arrive, they soon discover that Maberden is surrounded by an actual enchanted forest, and now they have to contend with the very real, very evil curse that plagues the beleaguered village. And that's when things start to get weird.

The Brothers Grimm is an incredibly frustrating film, in that it is filled with some genuinely great ideas, but ideas that are unfortunately never fully realized. In trademark Gilliam fashion, the film is hugely ambitious, but fails to live up to its lofty promises. I think the problem is that Grimm was designed solely to appeal to the masses (and let me tell you...the masses were out in droves last night) and jumpstart a franchise, and it really shows. Despite some amazing camera work (check out the incredible tracking shot that follows Little Red Riding Hood as she flees from the enchanted forest), the film feels flat and lifeless, as if Gilliam were simply on auto-pilot through the entire production. Throughout the film, Gilliam does his best to put little touches of his usual flair here and there, but he never really manages to put his distinctive stamp on it. The bottom line is that The Brothers Grimm could have been directed by anyone, that's how non-descript it is.

The acting is all over the place, with MAAAAATT DAAAAAAMON sounding like a drop-out from the Kevin Costner School of Accents. I like the guy, and he acquits himself well as the elder Grimm brother, but I've heard better accents in a high school drama club. Just as guilty in the accent stakes, Jonathan Pryce looks thoroughly bored, as though he's just killing time until the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie starts shooting (which he probably was). And Peter Stormare (is it just me, or does the guy look like a failed experiment at cloning Bruce Willis?) is flat-out embarrassing. Seriously, was Gilliam just not paying attention on the days when they were filming his scenes? He's so totally over the top in this film that he's little more than a twinkling dot in the sky. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Heath Ledger - perhaps it's the fact that he's surrounded by a shower of bad acting, but Ledger turns in a wonderful performance as the bookish and high-strung Jacob. He manages to imbue the character with warmth and likeability, and he was obviously having a lot of fun with the role, because it really comes through onscreen.

The Brothers Grimm isn't a bad film, but it's far from being a great one. It's just kind of there, and that's a real shame, because, in a way, mediocre films are almost worse than the staggeringly bad ones. At least those are memorable. Aside from some frighteningly inventive scenes (one involving a horse and a mouthful of spiders, and the other involving the Gingerbread Man from Hell), Grimm is almost totally forgettable. Unlike other Gilliam films, like the superb 12 Monkeys, for instance, it's not the kind of film that you excitedly run to the coffee shop [or Yates's Wine Lodge - UK Ed.] to discuss with your friends immediately after you leave the cinema. No, this is the kind of movie that you watch once and never really think about it again until someone asks you if you've seen it. The bottom line is this; if you're looking for a way to just waste two hours in the cinema, you could certainly do a lot worse...but you could also do a heck of a lot better.

More:  Action  Comedy  Fantasy  Family
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