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∑ 118 minutes
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Written by Ehren Kruger
· Matt Damon
· Heath Ledger
· Peter Stormare
· Lena Headey
· Monica Bellucci
· Jonathan Pryce
I am a Terry Gilliam fan. I am not an Ehren Keruger fan. Ask anyone that knows me, theyíll be happy to elaborate on my long time love of nearly all of Gilliamís films from Time Bandits to Fear and Loathing. Ask those same people about a certain prolific screenwriter and the response will be quite different. I donít know what it is, but I just donít like any film in his body of work.
So I went into the movie not knowing what to expect. The trailers displayed Gilliamís usual visual flair, unique as always and well suited to the expectations of the story. However, the trailers showed the same footage repeatedly. I know thatís usually par for the course, but even the TV spots didnít reveal anything new.
Unusually, I went into this film blind of all but a few crucial details.
Whatever promise seemed to be waiting by virtue of the director was quickly scuttled by mediocre writing, uneven acting and shoddy special effects. The film opens with a family tearing apart a toy horse for the wood to use as kindling to heat a tiny hut in a vain attempt at keeping a sick child alive. We learn that of two brothers, one was sent to the village to retrieve some medicine. Instead, he returns with some magic beans. The second outraged brother improbably set to scuffling with the other before weíre treated to a jarringly abrupt opening credit sequence.
A subtitle quickly brings us up to date: weíre 15 years ahead, and are introduced to men whom we can deduce are the two boys we met for those few brief minutes at the beginning of the film. The brothers have turned atypical intelligence to con games; theyíve taken to constructing monsters based on the folklore of the area they happen to be in. After another successful exorcism (where we meet their partners in crime), theyíre celebrating in a bar. Later that night, while both are sleeping off their revelries, a group of men break into their rooms and drag them back to a court where they are to be put on trial for their fraudulent activities and presumably killed.
If this all sounds terribly rushed, it is. The editing is sloppy and thereís no finesse to the proceedings. That doesnít mean theyíre hard to follow, itís just difficult to empathize with these characters despite some characteristics designed to evoke viewer sympathy. Matt Damon as Will Grimm is given the task of guarding his damaged younger brother. Heath Ledger is Jake Grimm whom weíre told bears an incredible guilt for letting their sister perish that bitter cold winter so long ago.
We then meet Peter Stormare who plays the general of the occupying French mainly by employing one of the worst accents since Van Helsing. Seriously, I couldnít understand what he was saying half the time, nor can I recall his name. Anyway, he gives the brothers a choice: torture, or investigate what appears to be a haunting perpetrated by someone with a similar modus operandi as the brothers. From there itís a quick ride to the tiny
All the expected stock characters are present, from the mayor to a feisty huntress, and we learn, in a disjointed way, about a noblewoman who tried to achieve eternal life several hundred years ago. She now resides in a tower improbably situated deep inside a forest that rearranges itself as people explore through it. Hence the difficulty in locating the girls.
For a movie that seems to want to be a in interesting piece of homage, the references to the actual Brothers Grimm amount to nothing more than a smattering of obvious one liners and forced visual puns.
The plot continues in the same labored manner until the eventual conclusion (which yields an odd laugh, and a decent half-twist).
This movie is purported to be one hour and fifty-eight minutes long. However, it feels like much longer. I canít decide what it was. The wretched editing, the second-rate characterization, needlessly convoluted plot, poor special effects, or inconsistent pacing. Despite gorgeous set design and competent direction, I just wanted this movie to end. It was a story I cared little for, nothing more than a rabble of events tied together by two unsympathetic characters in various scenes of peril.
In my opinion the failure of this movie (no matter how spectacular) can easily be laid at the feet of a pedestrian screenwriter. The humor was unfunny, the characters unmemorable (I donít even remember the names of anyone aside from the main characters and only because I know the names of their real life counterparts), and special effects only sank the movie further. Look for the scene with the possessed horse. I know it was supposed to be creepy, but it came off more as campy.
I laughed more than I wanted to, but not because anything was genuinely funny, but because of the unintentional ridiculousness of the proceedings. I was annoyed more than I was entertained, for which a large part can be given to the atrocious accent deployed by Peter Stormare. I donít know what he was thinking with that, but subtitles wouldíve helped to decipher what he was saying half the time.
As the plot careened along to the conclusion, we are treated to a few moments that I assume were supposed to elicit some feelings of suspense but they fall flat because the outcome could only be one thing. Again, the only culprit here is poor writing. The direction is serviceable, but serves a bad story; it does nothing to enliven the movie. The parts are bad; the whole is bad. I canít believe I spent eight fifty on this.
The Brothers Grimm is an all around disappointing experience. Iím certain there have been worse movies to be released this year, I just havenít seen them. Iím half tempted to say that the experience of this movie has dulled the impact of all the legitimately good movies Iíve seen so far in 2005, but thatís not quite true.
Bad, bad, bad. Donít see if you donít have to. Wait until it comes on TV and then ignore it.