THE BROTHERS GRIMM
**1/2 (out of 5)
August 26, 2005
Matt Damon as WILHELM GRIMM
Heath Ledger as JACOB GRIMM
Lena Headey as ANGELIKA
Peter Stormare as CAVALDI
Jonathan Pryce as DELATOMBE
Studio: Dimension and MGM
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Any time Terry Gilliam does a film, it makes news. Heck, there’s even a movie out there about him not making a movie (2002’s “Lost in La Mancha”).
Gilliam is greatly respected as a director, and much of this stems from his pivotal opus “Brazil,” which was released twenty years ago. “Brazil” was a masterpiece, but the problem with making your masterpiece in your early solo career is that you’re always living up to it.
Terry Gilliam has made some good films since then, and some have even come close to “Brazil,” like “The Fisher King” and “Twelve Monkeys.” However, nothing’s ever topped “Brazil,” and “The Brothers Grimm” doesn’t come close either.
“The Brothers Grimm” reminds me a lot of the film “Van Helsing.” It gets major kudos for having a great concept – fairy tale authors battle real fantasy creatures. However, like “Van Helsing,” it really goes overboard by throwing too many legends at you.
I have a friend who also does film reviews, and he hated this film because they used so many legends to tie together the story. I’ll admit, it does get excessive at times, and some of the legends are a bit of a stretch, but I don’t fault the movie for this. In fact, some of these tidbits are rather clever, including how they fit in Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf, Repunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk. Plus, I’m sure it’s filled with references to other lesser-known tales that I’m not even aware of.
I will admit, though, that the film went too far in shoehorning in the story of the Gingerbread Man. His initial appearance works to a degree (although it is strangely reminiscent of the Golgothan from Kevin Smith’s “Dogma”). However, it seems like someone didn’t think the audience would get it, so they had the creature take a bite of its arm, exclaim “Hmm! I taste good!” and dance away singing about being the Gingerbread Man.
There are other times where things just seem to fall apart in the story or the characters. I heard that Gilliam was given final cut on this film, which I’m sure delighted him, but may not have been the best move for this movie. Even though it doesn’t run ridiculously long, “The Brothers Grimm” could have benefited from some choice deletions throughout the movie.
As a run-of-the-mill mainstream film, “The Brothers Grimm” is okay. It’s a noble effort, but it’s far from perfect. Matt Damon and Heath Ledger do surprisingly well as the at-odds fairy-tale brothers from the 18th century. I was actually surprised that I liked Heath Ledger’s performance. (Normally, I can’t stand him as an actor.) However, with the exception of the Jason Bourne movies, Matt Damon doesn’t have what it takes to really carry the film.
Lena Headey is their beautiful co-star, who is also starring in this week’s release of “The Cave.” Between these two new movies, I’d recommend “The Brothers Grimm” a million times over “The Cave,” so for all of you Lena Headey fans, the choice should be clear.
There are some notable supporting actor roles that help round out the film. Jonathan Pryce provides a solid performance as the dastardly French commander, although Peter Stormare as his torturing sidekick gets tedious to watch. I’ve heard praised heaped on Stormare, but I never understand why. His over-the-top acting makes William Shatner look like Steven Wright. With the exception of “Fargo,” he’s always too big with his acting, trying to steal the show but just being annoying. Such is the case with his character in “The Brothers Grimm.”
This film does for fairy tales what “Time Bandits” did for time travel stories… if you remember “Time Bandits.” Everything you’d come to expect from a Terry Gilliam movie is here. The costuming is awesome, and the set design is great. The special effects are fifty-fifty. Gilliam has an uncanny control over the old-school practical effects. However, the CGI work done in this film isn’t quite up to snuff.
Still, if you like Terry Gilliam’s work, you should appreciate “The Brothers Grimm.”