Director Terry Gilliam is famous for taking things and showing them from his unique and twisted view, a view he began showing off years ago while a member of the legendary Monty Python comedy troupe.
During his somewhat spotty career, he has managed to produce three genuinely brilliant films – Brazil, 12 Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Two of these three movies were portraits of the future seen through Gilliam’s strange worldview. With The Brothers Grimm, Gilliam sets his sights on the past.
Grimm takes the brothers of the title (the well-known fable writers) and re-imagines them as the dashing but conniving Will (Matt Damon) and the scholarly, good-hearted Jake (Heath Ledger).
The pair travels from town to town in early 19th century French-occupied Germany, putting on a dog and pony show where, for a large fee, they supposedly rid villages of demons, witches, trolls and other supernatural oddities.
When the French government discovers their schemes, the brothers are sent to a village where young girls have mysteriously been disappearing.
If they can discover who is behind the disappearances, they will be pardoned of their scams. It turns out there are actually supernatural goings-on in this particular village, all centered on one spooky, possibly haunted forest.
Gilliam’s trademark visual style is in full effect, and the movie is never less than a joy to see. All of the scenery is delightful, but the special effects, however, leave much to be desired.
Most of the effects look extremely dated, in addition to some being rather bizarre – an appearance by the Gingerbread Man comes to mind.
The story itself is a problem. The script written by Ehren Kruger could be to blame. The movie’s well-publicized post production troubles may also have had something to do with it. Following a promising beginning, Grimm dissolves into borderline incoherence for the rest of its too long 118-minute running time.
The performances also don’t help. The normally reliable Matt Damon phones in his performance as the cookie-cutter Will, and Heath Ledger plays Jake as far too foppish to be sympathetic. As the token love interest, newcomer Lena Headey leaves little to no impression. The best of the lot is Jonathan Pryce (of Gilliam’s Brazil) as a sinister French general.
It is hard to tell whether editing troubles or a generic script lead to the downfall of this movie, but as Gilliam films go, The Brothers Grimm is much more on par with his infamous flop The Adventures of Baron Van Munchausen than his more well-respected works.
Chuck DelRoss can be reached at Cdelross@temple.edu</a..