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Overall Rating

Awesome: 5.88%
Worth A Look: 29.41%
Average: 29.41%
Pretty Bad32.94%
Total Crap: 2.35%

9 reviews, 31 user ratings

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Brothers Grimm, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Even picking up a paycheck, Gilliam is better than most."
3 stars

You look at "The Brothers Grimm", and you know what the producers were thinking. They've got this Ehren Kruger script, and it's set in pre-industrial times and kind of off-kilter. "Let's get Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam on this", they think. "They've got experience and their fans love this sort of thing. Guaranteed ticket sales!" So they hire Gilliam, and then freak out when he starts acting like Terry Gilliam - making things up as he goes along, making changes during shooting, and the like. It's as though they wanted Terry Gilliam's name and visual style, but not the sometimes torturous process that goes with it.

So there's a whole mess that happens - it becomes a "troubled" production, is rescued by a new studio whose heads decide to give a few more notes to a director who was hired for his quirky, individual track record. By the time everything is said and done, Terry Gilliam has made a decent enough film, a passable couple hours of late-summer entertainment. It's identifiable as his work, both on the surface and underneath. But even though it's not a completely hollow piece of studio product, it's also not his best work; it's not touched by the sheer mad genius that distinguishes 12 Monkeys or Brazil. It's a professional Terry Gilliam rather than a passionate one; despite the occasional bits of dark whimsy, one gets the sense that he's trying to repair any damage the collapse of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote did to his reputation, even as he'd really rather be making Tideland.

The film introduces us to Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm (Matt Damon and Heath Ledger), con artist brothers who exorcise demons that they create using Will's technical know-how and Jake's knowledge of local folklore. When they are captured by the French soldiers occupying their native Germany, General Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce) gives them a choice: Death at the hands of enthusiastic Italian torturer Cavaldi (Peter Stormare), or helping them discover who is pulling a similar con in a small village - one which involves missing children. The only reluctant help they get from the terrified village is from Angelika (Lena Headey), sister to two of the missing girls, who claims the reason for their abduction is entirely supernatural.

The look and feel of the film owes as much to Tim Burton's films as it does Gilliam's. The latter's tendency to represent pre-industrial life in all its unsanitary squalor remains, but it vies with a Buron-esque design sense, with elaborate costumes and contraptions realized in rich blacks. I'm not terribly fond of that style, but I do, for the most part, like the way this looks. The trees in the enchanted forest seem more twisted and sinister than regular trees; they look like they can move because they don't appear rigid and static. The devices that the Grimms and Cavaldi use are anachronistic, but not overly so; Willhelm is ingenious but mostly in terms of how he uses early-nineteenth century technology. There are some genuinely creepy effects, with a good combination of digital and practical work.

That creepiness is going to be off-putting to some, but I don't think it pushes the limits of the PG-13 rating too much. There is one rather mean-spirited bit with a cute little kitten, but villains should be thoroughly detestable, and monsters should be scary. Indeed, the film arguably wears the trappings of darkness more than it actually is dark - the opening has young Jacob spending all the family's money on "magic beans" whose lack of enchantment has grave consequences; "beans" is a repeated admonishment whenever Will thinks Jake's head is too far in the clouds. But when the story inevitably shifts from Will's stage magic to the real thing, the environment may still be ominous, but the lack of rules cuts both ways - if monsters can appear out of nowhere, so can salvation. Kruger's script (or the editing) also doesn't seem to be big on consistency. Sometimes, you need a guide to find the haunted tower (with that guide having to perform an odd bit of divination to find their way back because of the shifting woods); sometimes you don't, even though the forest's enchantment would logically have grown stronger.

The cast also seems relatively unenthused. Damon's a pro and his performance gives hints at how conflicted the relationship between the brothers must be, but his character's cynicism and practicality are undercut by the story. He plays the apparent leading man, but winds up yielding the active role to Heath Ledger's Jake. Ledger is almost unrecognizable behind Jake's thick glasses and dirtied up to fit in the movie's environment, making him an odd but appealing action hero during the movie's last act. It's actually a decent bit of misdirection, if a somewhat predictable one. Lena Headey is pleasantly hard-nosed as Angelika, a fine counterpoint to Jake. The rest of the cast makes less of an impression - Mackenzie Crook and Richard Ridings are generically dirty/cowardly/stupid as the Grimms' accomplices; Jonathan Pryce is snooty and cruel as the local French warlord; Peter Stormare is ca-razy as his chief thug. Monica Bellucci gets far too little screen time as the movie's beautiful but vain villainess.

(For those keeping score, the American and Australian actors play English-accented Germans, as does the English actress. Englishman Jonathan Pryce plays a Frenchman, Swede Peter Stormare plays an Italian, and the Italian actress plays a presumably Germanic princess.)

"The Brothers Grimm" has too much talent working too hard to fall below average, and it's worth a look even if you haven't seen everything else at the theater. It doesn't have the spark of Gilliam's best work, but lesser Gilliam is still entertaining enough to make for an evening or afternoon well-spent.

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originally posted: 09/09/05 00:14:36
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell not grimm pretty good actually 4 stars
2/07/11 Pamela White fun take on dark age con men and karma 3 stars
9/03/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome storyline! 5 stars
6/09/07 Danielle Ophelia Indeed it is better than Van Helsing--long live Gilliam--but that doesn't take much. 3 stars
6/03/07 Beth C. this movie was very interesting and really fun to watch. 5 stars
11/30/06 Stanley Thai Meh. Gilliam kinda falls short with this film. 3 stars
10/20/06 MP Bartley Visually ravishing and loopily entertaining. The film Van Helsing should have been. 4 stars
9/08/06 drydock54321 kind of dumb 3 stars
8/10/06 Dragon The Artist Obviously an attempt at a Labyrinth-ish cult classic; So its strictly medieocre. 3 stars
7/13/06 David Cohen Gilliam's worst movie, lacked cohesion, but not terrible 3 stars
7/07/06 Doremimi If your TV has a subtitles feature, turn it on, otherwise, it's completely incoherent. 2 stars
6/27/06 chienne Loved it, different & typically Gilliam. 5 stars
1/01/06 y2mckay too dumbed down for adults, too violent for kids, weak broad humor and meandering plot. 2 stars
12/25/05 othree Disneyish butchering Grimm favorites, in good humor, family movie 3 stars
12/19/05 um fatty it was a good movie um, publish 4 stars
12/19/05 Bree It was a fun film, but less than par for Gilliam. 3 stars
9/22/05 Fritz Dollar theaters were made for this sort of movie. Entertaining. 3 stars
9/21/05 Jonathon Holmes booooooooooooring 2 stars
9/21/05 Eric Fortune I thought this movie was better than most critics said it was. I enjoyed it. 4 stars
9/19/05 Glennyce Paetzmann If you're willing to submit to Gilliam's style completely, then you might end up liking it. 4 stars
9/15/05 millersxing A disappointment. BG is to Gilliam as Sleepy Hollow is to Burton. 3 stars
9/07/05 Gray I thought it would more funny and less weird 3 stars
8/31/05 Christian lady Too choppy, boring other than the forest scenes 3 stars
8/31/05 Titus Moments of genius, but some horrible writing and acting by the supporting cast. 3 stars
8/29/05 herkos akhaion One of Gilliam's best 5 stars
8/28/05 sweetgrrl1972 Boring. I've never come so close to falling asleep in a movie theatre before 1 stars
8/27/05 cam-ron I already saw this film. It was called BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF...only that one was good. 2 stars
8/27/05 sam a wild romp i recommend for all. 4 stars
8/27/05 KingNeutron SUCKS ALL ASS; I can't blv they actually released this pile of CRAP. Ledger is miscast. 1 stars
8/27/05 Mr. Chuckles Surprisingly awesome. Almost as good as Twelve Monkeys. Almost. 5 stars
8/26/05 Ray OK 4 stars
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  26-Aug-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 20-Dec-2005



Directed by
  Terry Gilliam

Written by
  Ehren Kruger

  Matt Damon
  Heath Ledger
  Peter Stormare
  Jonathan Pryce
  Monica Bellucci
  Lena Headey

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