Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Canon Movie Review: The Brothers Grimm

The Brothers Grimm is a 2005 film that was directed by Terry Gilliam and stars Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as the titular brothers. The Brothers Grimm also stars Lena Heady, Peter Stormare, Jonathan Pryce, and Monica Bellucci. In this film, brothers Will (Damon) and Jake (Ledger) are paranormal investigators who pull off elaborate hoaxes of legends to fool villagers in 18th century Germany. However, the French capture the Grimm brothers, and force them to investigate the disappearance of many young girls in an enchanted forest of a small French village. They receive some assistance from a villager named Angelika (Headey), who knows the forest better than anyone and also has a personal stake in this, as two of her sisters were amongst the girls abducted. As it turns out, the forest is enchanted, and the girls are being used in a spell to restore the youth of a 500 year-old queen (Bellucci) who wants to regain her beauty and rule the land again. So, it's up to the Grimm brothers to save the day. A few notes about this film, and there are SPOILERS, so read carefully.

-  This film wastes very little time before diving right in to the story. There's a quick scene at the beginning where a young Jake buys magic beans to cure their sick sister, and Will gets angry and fights him because of it. All of a sudden, the film moves to the future and the Grimms are trying to catch a witch. Other than that one scene that shows Jacob as a believer in folklore and Will as a realist, there isn't exactly a lot of depth to the Grimm brothers' characters. Will's just a generic dashing womanizer type character, while Jacob is your typical bookworm type who's always in Will's shadow. Also, while I like both Damon and Ledger, there seems to be something a little off about their performance. In my view, I think the movie may have been better had they switched roles, as they were originally slated to do.

- The Brothers Grimm is about a pair of German brothers and set primarily in France. So naturally it would make sense that Stormare (who played Cavaldi, the person assigned to keep the Grimms in check) to speak in an Italian accent while Ledger, Damon, and Heady all adapted British accents. Oh wait, that doesn't make sense at all. My fault.

- It may have been just me, but I thought that Will was kind of a jerk throughout the whole movie. He's constantly berating his brother for having his head in the clouds, refuses to believe that anything in the forest could be enchanted, tries to woo Angelika while a) knowing that Jake has feelings for her and b) doing so just seconds after kicking Jake out of the room, and generally acts as if he's somehow above everyone else. Even in the scene where he expresses concern about watching over Jake, it comes off as if Will thinks that Jake is too stupid to live without him. I don't know, I just really didn't dig Will as a character at all.

- Even though The Brothers Grimm features an original story, the story does heavily borrow some elements made famous by the tales of the actual Grimm Brothers. There's references to Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel & Gretal, Snow White, and other tales, and I found it somewhat interesting how the writers were able to blend all these pieces into the narrative. Or at least attempted to, as the actual plot itself was decent at best with many holes and a lot of unexplained elements to the tale.

- Even though I've been mostly negative about this movie thus far, I will say that The Brothers Grimm looked great. The enchanted forest setting in particular was a highlight of the film, along with its trees with extending vines and the queen's large castle in the middle. Gilliam is a master of creating larger than life worlds in some of his movies, and this is no exception. Also of note is the costuming and the cinematography, which was done quite well despite the fact there were two different cinematographers hired for the role.

- A story almost more interesting than the movie itself was the behind-the-scenes machinations of The Brothers Grimm. The film was delayed due to a lack of financial backing, then MGM decided not to distribute the film, so the Weinsten brothers over at Dimension films stepped in as distributors. They also drove Gilliam crazy with their constant suggestions, and the two sides developed a rift that not only delayed the release of the shooting, but really did a number on the film itself. In Gilliam's own words: [I]t's not the film they wanted and it's not quite the film I wanted. It's the film that is a result of [...] two groups of people, who aren’t working well together." Really sums it up right there, doesn't it.

At the end of the day, The Brothers Grimm is the result of having too many cooks in the kitchen, and as such is a directionless film that isn't funny enough to be a comedy, scary enough to be a suspense film, and epic enough to be a true fantasy film. It's also too violent to be a kids movie, yet too hokey to be an epic drama. There are some positives to The Brothers Grimm, but overall this movie is less than the sum of its parts. One only wonders what Gilliam would have done had he not felt so compromised, but it is what it is. Overall, I'd give this film a 4.6 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you any ideas for future posts, or thoughts about this post, than either leave a comment on the blog or send them to me at e-mail at

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