The Brothers Grimm


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Rating: PG-13

Matt Damon as Wilhelm Grimm
Heath Ledger as Jacob Grimm
Peter Stormare as Cavaldi
Jonathan Pryce as Delatombe
Laura Greenwood as Sasha
Lena Headey as Angelika
Tomás Hanák as Woodsman
Monica Bellucci as Mirror Queen

Special Features:
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary

Feature Commentary with Director Terry Gilliam

Bringing The Fairytale To Life

The Visual Magic Of The Brothers Grimm

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French Language
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 118 Minutes

The following is from the DVD cover:

“Matt Damon (The Bourne Supremacy, Ocean’s Twelve) and Heath Ledger (The Patriot, A Knight’s Tale) team up to bring you one of the year’s most fantastic adventures in this magical tale based on the lives of the legendary storytellers. Will and Jake Grimm (Damon and Ledger) dazzle small towns with their imaginative folklore and elaborate illusions, but when the brothers journey into a real enchanted forest they encounter many of the fantastic characters and thrilling situations found in their beloved fairy tales! From the award-winning director of 12 Monkeys, Brazil, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this fabulous motion picture is sure to leave you living happily ever after!”

The Brothers Grimm is rated PG-13 for violence, frightening sequences and brief suggestive material.

The Movie:
The Brothers Grimm, on the surface, looks like a great film. The director is Terry Gilliam who did Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Time Bandits, Brazil, and Twelve Monkeys. The film stars Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Monica Belluci and Jonathan Pryce. The production design was done by Guy Dyas who has done X-Men 2, Superman Returns, The Matrix Reloaded, Planet of the Apes, Pearl Harbor and more. And if you look at short clips of the movie, it looks spectacular. The Brothers Grimm is a beautiful film. Unfortunately, once you look past the surface, it all falls apart.

The biggest problem is the story. First and foremost, it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. Parts of it are pure horror. Other parts are pure comedy. Still other parts are action and others are fantasy. In flitting between so many styles and genres, it never becomes all that good at any of them. For example, in one scene a young girl is attacked by a blob that removes her face. That is pretty horrific. The blob then turns into a comical gingerbread man that does some slapstick and runs away. The two drastically different tones don’t mesh well. The overall result is a confusing mess that is less than mediocre.

That leads to another issue – the film is just plain weird at times. If you look at Gilliam’s other films, you know he has a reputation for quirky and weird films. However, it just doesn’t work here. In one scene, a character is torturing our heroes. He’s about to send the lead actress into some spinning blades. As a fluffy white kitten rubs on his foot, he kicks it and sends it flying into the blades in a splash of blood. Some gore lands on Jonathan Pryce’s face, and he plucks it off and eats it. I didn’t find it funny, quirky, or anything else other than stupid. There are other moments like this throughout the film.

Another problem with The Brothers Grimm is a series of random cuts. There are times where it seems like the movie has skipped ahead in the narrative without explanation. (And as you see in the deleted scenes, that’s exactly the case.) For example, in one scene all of the characters are running around in the woods trying to find each other. In the very next scene, they’re all running out of the forest together and out of breath. How did they meet up? What happened? It doesn’t explain it till you see the deleted scenes. The film takes other unbelievable jumps, too. By the end of the movie, the character that has been torturing and harassing our heroes for the entire film ends up being their best friend. It made no sense whatsoever. The extremely long 2 hour running time doesn’t help matters, either.

The visual effects in The Brothers Grimm are a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the work is absolutely beautiful. The scenes with the witch and the evil queen are quite effective. Other scenes are quite awful. A scene where a horse eats a little girl is both freakish and terrible looking. The CG wolf is also a mix of good and bad. At times he looks like a real wolf. At other times he looks like a stop-motion puppet. There’s more good than bad, but it doesn’t help when the visual effects are one of the few things that make the movie watchable and they fall apart.

Most of the acting is decent. Heath Ledger and Matt Damon make a good pair whether they’re in an action scene or doing comedy. Unfortunately, the material doesn’t match their versatility. I really liked Lena Headey as Angelika. She was beautiful, tough, and resourceful. I’d like to see her in a better film. Unfortunately Peter Stormare, who I generally like, is way over the top as Cavaldi. Every moment he’s on the screen is excruciating. It doesn’t help matters that the usually dignified Jonathan Pryce is boring and very French as Delatombe. Finally, even the beauty of Monica Bellucci isn’t enough to make her appealing as the Mirror Queen. In short, this cast is pretty much wasted in Brothers Grimm.

The Extras:
There are a few bonus features included on the DVD:

Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary – There are quite a few deleted scenes of varying length. As previously mentioned, some of them seem to fill in the gaping plot holes in the film. One shows an attack by a tree on our heroes and the ensuing battle. The scene reveals how they fight it and why they were reunited before emerging from the forest. Another scene explains how Angelika was able to break free and help the Grimm Brothers escape despite being a prisoner herself in the scene before. Another deleted scene explains why a couple of the prisoners were being dipped in a cauldron along with some snails – the French commander wanted escargot. Because they fill in so many holes in the narrative, the deleted scenes are worth viewing.

Feature Commentary with Director Terry Gilliam – Gilliam provides a pretty interesting commentary even though he isn’t joined by any of his cast. He even addresses some of the problems surrounding the project from early in its life. However, it’s never a good sign when the director starts out the commentary by saying he had no interest in the project and was doing it because he had nothing better to do. Gilliam fans should enjoy hearing his thoughts.

Bringing The Fairytale To Life – This “making of” video has your standard interviews with cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, and more. Guy Dyas even gives a tour of the sets.

The Visual Magic Of The Brothers Grimm – This featurette highlights the computer animation in the film. They spend most of their time showing the CG wolf and the shattered mirror effect on the Queen.

The Bottom Line:
I wouldn’t recommend The Brothers Grimm to anyone other than die-hard fans of Terry Gilliam, Matt Damon, and Heath Ledger. Everyone else should just pass on it.