The Brothers Grimm
- Terry Gilliam
- Reviewed by
- José Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Wilhelm Grimm (Matt Damon) and his brother Jacob (Heath Ledger) make a living out of exploiting villagers by getting them to believe there are supernatural beings haunting them. They then go on and “exorcize” the places, getting quite a lot of money for each endeavor. But when the government finds out, they believe the Grimm brothers are behind the disappearance of little girls from a nearby town. They deny it, and are then sent to the place in question where they promise to find who’s behind this, while at the same time being carefully watched by a guard who goes by the name of Cavaldi (Peter Stormare).
The movie contains many brilliant ideas that do not form a coherent whole. What I mean is, the potential was great, but somehow the movie comes off as a predictable mess. Great moments here and there, but the whole does not feel like the sum of its parts.
What I liked most about the movie is the fascinating approach that the creators of Shakespeare in Love (1998) used for their movie and that Gilliam and writer Ehren Kruger follow here as well. The Grimm brothers are authors of countless tales, a lot of which are very well-known by the general public. That way the movie is filled with references to those classic tales, references which are picked up by Jacob as inspiration for his writings. We get to see where the witch from “Snowhite” came from, as well as the “Red Hooded Girl” or “Hans and Greta”. We also get to see such bits as a toad who is willing to help when given a “kiss”, or a sleeping girl who wakes up by using that same device, not to mention a scene in which long extensions of human hair are used to get down from the top of a huge tower. I guess what I’m saying is that there is a lot of enthralling fantasy and magic involved, and I liked that.
Special credit to the “Red Hooded Girl” sequence, which is impressively shot. The camerawork is fantastic.
That was the good, now for the bad: the movie is a mess. It doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Sometimes it’s a broad comedy, sometimes it goes for slapstick, sometimes it goes for blown-out fantasy; and in the midst of it all Gilliam wants us too feel something for the brothers and for some other characters in danger. Well, it is a circus, and I felt absolutely nothing for anyone. That makes the movie drag a lot, especially since the ending is pretty conventional and not that exciting.
I also loathed a scene in which a “monster” made of mud, which eventually takes the form of the Gingerbread Man, does horrible things to a little girl. I don’t necessarily mind what happens in the scene, but it doesn’t belong to this movie. It is really a shocking moment of what-the-hell-were-they-thinking nature. Absolutely out of place...
Special effects abound in the movie, and sometimes they work but sometimes they don’t. It becomes too overbearing, with style and spectacle over real substance. That said, I really liked the effect of the witch’s mirror.
Heath Ledger and Matt Damon deliver really good performances. I was surprised because they both play against type. Boring thinking would have had them playing each others’ roles, but this way it is more interesting and they both prove they can handle it. Monica Bellucci appears briefly and looks as ravishing as ever. Lena Headey has a sizable role as Angelika, a woman who helps the brothers in their quest, and she acquits herself nicely. Peter Stormare and Jonathan Pryce are way over-the-top and not funny at all.
A missed opportunity.
“And a fine wife he'll make some lucky man.”
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