© 2005 Ray Wong
Stars: Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Lena Headey, Peter Stormare, Jonathan Pryce, Monica Bellucci
Director: Terry Gilliam
Writer: Ehren Kruger
Distributor: Dimension Films
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, frightening sequences, alcohol and themes
Running time: 118 minutes
Script – 2
Performance – 5
Direction – 4
Cinematography – 6
Editing – 6
Production – 6
Total Score – 4.8 out of 10
I had really high hopes for THE BROTHERS GRIMM, and thought that the summer season could really go out with a bang with this one. Who doesn’t love the Grimm’s fairytales? Who doesn’t want to know how they come up with all those wicked tales? Alas!...
Wilhelm (Damon) and Jacob (Ledger) Grimm are two brothers. Will is the realist, but Jake is the dreamer. Jake’s wild imagination costs their young sister her life, and Will can never trust him again. Years later, Will and Jake becomes con men, scamming villages across the German landscape as exorcists and witch hunters. And they’re quite famous for their exorcism. Of course, they don’t believe in any of the ridiculous folklores (well, Will doesn’t, and Jake doesn’t want to).
When young girls begin to disappear in the French-occupied village of Marbaden, Will and Jake are summoned to help find the culprit and bring the children back. They reluctantly accept the challenge, thinking they can scam their way out of it. They coerce beautiful Angelika (Headey) to be their guide to the enchanted forest. But General Delatombe (Pryce) and his minion Cavaldi (Stormare) are on to them. They find a strange tower and tombs deep in the forest, and strange things start to happen and Delatombe’s men get killed, sometimes gruesomely. Delatombe’s suspicions turn to the brothers Grimm and Angelika. But Will and Jake know something evil lurks atop the tower.
Damon (OCEAN’s TWELVE) is sorely miscast here. He’s a good actor, but he does well mostly in modern drama or action flicks, not period farce. And he overacts. Ledger (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN) fares better as Jake, since he looks good in period costumes (A KNIGHT’S TALE, FOUR FEATHERS). And he doesn’t overacts as much. Headley (THE CAVE) is wasted here. At first, we’re delighted to see a seemingly strong woman character in a mostly-male cast. But how disappointing that Angelika turns out to be yet another damsel in distress. Not to mention Headley looks more like a supermodel than a hunter. Stormare (BIRTH) overacts, as does Pryce (DE-LOVELY). In fact, the whole cast overacts. It is as if Gilliam told them, “Act as crazily as you can.” And they did.
To say the plot is convoluted is an understatement. Writer Kruger (SKELETON KEY) tries to cleverly include our favorite fairytales (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.) in the supposedly “real” story of brothers Grimm. Unfortunately, don’t expect the charm of, say, SHREK or ELLA ENCHANTED. In fact, “grim” is the word – how appropriate. And that’s okay, if that’s what Kruger and director Gilliam (FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS) are aiming for. I should have known better, given Gilliam’s past endeavors and Kruger’s previous works, that this film is not going to warm and cuddly. Still, it doesn’t stop me from being disappointed.
Why? Because this film is unpleasant. I’ve loved the Grimm’s fairytales and I know a lot of them are far from the cute Disney versions. Still, gruesome as the original stories of Cinderella and Snow White are, they still possess certain charm and intrigue. We care about the characters. In this film, however, I can’t identify with any of the characters. Will is too cynical; Jack is a loon and a wimp; Angelika is spoiled; Cavaldi is an idiot; and Delatombe is a snot. We’re supposed to root for the brothers Grimm, but they’re so unlikable I find myself looking for distraction. Alas! The film is dark and gloomy and chaotic and extravagantly gaudy. It has the look of a gaudy period piece made in the 1970s. It is unpleasant, big, loud, and a mess. Nothing makes sense. It's a cross between SLEEPY HOLLOW and VAN HELSING. But mostly it reminds me of the latter, another unpleasant, big and loud mess. Utterly unpleasant. It’s one Grimm’s tale I’m going to avoid in the future – even if Disney wants to salvage it.