The Brothers Grimm

August 26, 2005

Terry Gilliam’s new one is clumsy, overcrowded and kind of charming. I hear Harvey from Miramax sent someone to go and block the camera if Gilliam went through with his plant to shoot Matt Damon with a prosthetic nose on his face. Dunno if it’s true, but I’d believe it. This doesn’t feel like a film that resulted from a singular vision or a smooth production. Even if we account for Gilliam’s visions alone, we’re hardly dealing with a consistent voice for the picture.

In a way, The Brothers Grimm might be his new Time Bandits, what with its cult-classic potential and its comedic and adventurous gems buried like kidnapped children in a forest packed with distractions, errant characters and obnoxious pleas for attention. Peter Stormare is rapidly becoming a catalog of cartoon characters (Minority Report, Constantine) and Jonathan Pryce’s role in the hands of anyone else would have been a gaudy and annoying imposition. (To this day, I think he wants me to buy a Lexus.) On the one hand, I know I laughed at these cultural caricatures sometimes, but on the other hand I was actually sorry to see them come back on the scene (more than once) when the story finally found it’s momentum at the beginning of the third act. This film would’ve been a great romp if a whole third of its ingredients had been stripped right out to make room for the Brothers Grimm.

Matt Damon and especially Heath Ledger play against type and against a lot of Hollywood buddy standards here and, particularly near the end, are a lot of fun to watch. They’ve got a great rapport and a dynamic that’s intriguingly strange and sometimes believably unpleasant. Best of all, they’re quaintly (and sometimes obviously) funny, if you can spot them buried two or three layers down in the audio mix or standing behind the myriad other, lesser characters stomping across the stage here.

On top of that, there are some entertaining fantasy elements to enjoy. If you like European folklore, twisted Germanic castles, slanted ruins buried in leaves and menageries of weird monsters without exposition, there’s plenty to like in here. If you’re a D&D or Warhammer player, you may find a lot of the movie feels like a game session: lively, convoluted, loud and confused, with the delight that comes from in-the-moment gags and crazy plans. (More on this later.) But don’t forget that it’s also jerky, wildly inconsistent, often stymied and disappointing at regular intervals.

But then there’s a bit with a kitten that must have had just the most marvelous stage direction in the screenplay.



  1. Don’t forget Karl Hungus dude.

  2. I saw Brothers Grimm about a year and a half ago at one of those, “Hey you, watch this movie for free and fill out a quiz after so we can figure out if we’ve screwed ourselves on it” things. I’m relieved to hear the kitten made it in, I was fairly sure it was going to get left on the cutting room floor…

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