The Brothers Grimm (2005)

Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Thriller
Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Monica Bellucci, Petr Ratimec
Will and Jake Grimm are traveling con-artists who encounter a genuine fairy-tale curse which requires true courage instead of their usual bogus exorcisms.
The Brothers Grimm is full of beautiful imagery, but the story is labored and less than enchanting.
  • Miramax Films Company:
  • PG-13 Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 26 Aug 2005 Released:
  • 20 Dec 2005 DVD Release:
  • $37.8M Box office:

All subtitles:



Trailer:

"Grimm" an interesting, creative and visually-intriguing film7/10
Terry Gilliam, the only American member of the Monty Python troupe, and director of such quirky classics as "Brazil," "Time Bandits," "The Fisher King," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen" and "Monty Python & The Holy Grail," among others, does it again with bizarre combination of Munchausen and Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow," with a little bit of "The Village" thrown in.

This dark-humored film relates the completely-fictional story of the famous German brothers, Wilhelm (Matt Damon) and Jakob (Heath Ledger) Grimm, who created dozens of fairy tales and nursery stories for children in the early 19th Century. True to Gillian's idiosyncratic style, though, the movie plays nothing straight down the line. In this case, the brothers are con artists, traveling through the French-occupied German villages (remember Napoleon was big in those days) and playing on the fears and superstitions of their idiot occupants.

Wearing goofy armor, shouting made-up incantations, and using hidden assistants, sleight of hand and other trickery, they fool these hicks into paying them big money, that is until they are finally captured by French forces, and sent to a town where several young girls have gone missing. The two arrive with little fanfare, as well as several French soldiers and Cavaldi (Peter Stormare, "Birth," "Bad Boys 2"), the evil Italian inquisitor of Gen. Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce, "Brazil") to try and solve the mystery. If they fail, they will be tortured and executed.

Since, of course, they are fakes, they have no idea what they're doing but, with the assistance of a female trapper, they discover a crumbling tower deep within a foreboding forest. The woman remembers her father telling her the story of an evil queen who sealed herself up there to avoid a plague that was killing her subjects. It seems this tower and whatever now lives inside of it may be the cause of all the trouble.

Borrowing heavily from "Sleepy Hollow," the two have gadgets and inventions which were far ahead of their time (and thus completely illogical to those around them). Their efforts to solve the disappearances are clumsy and awkward, but somehow they stumble onto clue after clue. All the while they exchange silly and witty bon mots while trying to outsmart the bad guys and themselves. Even better performances come from Pryce and especially Cavaldi, who is evil, smarmy and pathetic.

Always a stickler for historic details, Gilliam's costumes and set design are perfect for 1804 Europe (the film was shot in Prague), when Napoleon was at the peak of his powers and the continent was pretty much under French control.

Weaved throughout the film are any number of the Grimm fables, including "Cinderella," "Sleeping Beauty," "Rapunzel," "The Frog Prince," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Hansel And Gretel" and "The Gingerbread Man," among others, while the iconoclastic Gilliam throws in subtle and not-too-subtle jokes, dialogue and situations.

Here, many who may not understand or appreciate the director's roots, may turn away and condemn the project, misinterpreting Gilliam's often-frantic camera-work and reliance on special effects as a metaphor for his lack of vision or ingenuity. Nothing could be further from the truth. "Grimm," while certainly not up to the standards set in some of his earlier work, is nonetheless an interesting, creative and visually-intriguing film. Yes, it does tend to bog down every now and then, while the violent comedy, at times, is a bit forced, but, overall, that detracts little from the entire film.
not bad7/10
Well, my friends, I have just returned from the earliest possible showing of "Brothers Grimm" in my area, and I can assure you it was well worth getting up a few hours earlier than usual to watch. However, I would caution anyone who doesn't like Terry Gilliam's work, Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, or the REAL brothers Grimms' stories that this is not your average fantasy. The story is set in french-occupied Germany in the 1700s, a real time in which real people actually lived. Even some of the magical aspects of the story are explained by real events (I won't spoil it for you). So quite a bit of the plot deals with the realities of the day and age along with the fantastical aspects of the forest and its inhabitants.

That being said, the story also deals with the opposite side of unreality-- the dark and unnaturally gruesome. This is where I think the writer hit on a brilliant point; while the real brothers' stories have happy endings and some lighthearted moments, most if not all of their stories involve some degree of blood and gore. My hat is off to Ehren Kruger for being true to that aspect of their work.

The only aspects of this movie I disliked were the unresolved ending (which I won't spoil, either) and some of the acting. Lena Headey's performance did not impress me, but it could just be lack of material to work with (a very overdone character) and the fact that I've never seen any of her other work. Matt Damon is interesting to watch as usual. Peter Stormare and Jonathan Pryce are wacky to the point of annoyance as an Italian torture specialist and a French general. The only truly wonderful performance, however, is that of Mr. Ledger, whose bumbling, scholarly, tag-along Jacob was both a sympathetic character and a side we rarely see from this multi-talented actor.

This is not a movie for everyone (I wouldn't bring children with the tendency for nightmares or irrational fears, for example). It's not a movie you'll learn from or probably want to see hundreds of times. But for the moviegoer looking for beautiful cinematography, a few good laughs, and a fairly suspenseful story, look no further.
Gilliam does Hollywood ...6/10
Being a fan of both good old-fashioned fantasy movies and of director Terry Gilliam, I was really looking forward to this one. I was slightly put off when I heard Gilliam's complaints about the constant interference of the Brothers Weinstein, but the director does have a history of being dissatisfied with the production of projects which actually turn out pretty good in the end, so my hopes were still pretty high.

Rather than being a historical biography of the famous authors, this is a fantastic make-believe story of the possible inspirations behind the stories of the Brothers Grimm. The brothers travel around Europe working as con artists, fooling simple peasants into believing they are witch-hunters and monster slayers. However, when they are captured by a French general and sent to investigate a town which is believed to have been targeted by similar con-men, they discover that there may be some truth behind the fairy tales. The very woods surrounding the town seem to be alive, a big, bad wolf stalks through the darkness and an evil power seems to emanate from a mysterious ancient tower ...

So, Gilliam tries his hand at doing a commercial summer blockbuster. And the results are, well, interesting. Primarily he shows that he can produce some great action sequences, and there are some really great visual ideas here, many of which I'll admit are entirely thanks to top-notch CGI work. These are the moments when the director's creative magic appears to shine through, and there's enough of them to make this movie worth watching. Overall it does feel strangely derivative for a Gilliam movie, but I suppose that's to be expected when he sacrifices creative control to the studio. In the past I've heard that Gilliam simply sees himself as a "hired hand" on such projects.

However, where it fails is in the mixture of action and drama, in repeatedly placing it's characters in peril whilst also making us care about them. Unfortunately this has been a problem in a lot of these big-budget fantasy/action movies lately, including last years equivalent -- "Van Helsing". The other movie with which this shares a lot in common is Tim Burton's Gothic horror "Sleepy Hollow", which was far superior to either. The main problem with the "Brothers Grimm" is that there's little to no character development in the first hour of the movie, and then almost all of the conflict between the characters is suddenly introduced in one scene. This is what we call bad pacing. And the way the characters are written seems somewhat inconsistent (although both Damon and Ledger manage to turn in decent performances all the same), and we never really get a "feel" for their personalities.

For your average light-hearted Hollywood fantasy, this is perfectly fine. But from a director with a history of making fascinating, important works of surreal art, this is somewhat short of what you'd expect.
Do people read any more? A folk tale for adults.9/10
Like his Baron Munchhausen, Gilliam's Brothers Grimm has been horridly misunderstood by critics and public alike. What I get from the comments and reviews is the sense of thwarted expectations, although I have little idea what the anti-Grimms expected in the first place. People dislike the kitten scene because it's a cute kitten. This I find entirely in the grotesque spirit of the original folk tales. We've learned to take our fairy tales Disneyfied, apparently. I've also heard complaints about the quality of the special effects as sub-ILM quality. Frankly, that's what I liked about them. They *didn't* look like ILM; they looked personal. I admit I found the basic premise a cliche (two con men who make their living on the superstitious gullible find out that, in this case, the magic is real), but its working-out overcomes this basic flaw. This is a movie that shuns cliche. The brightest scenes, for example, almost always contain the greatest menace. Relative safety is drab, dirty, brutish, nasty, and short. Ledger gives an amazing performance -- I had previously regarded him as a Troy Donahue update. Matt Damon shows he has the chops to cross over from small "indies" to big performances in the old leading-man vein. Peter Stromare and Jonathan Pryce do a highbrow Martin & Lewis -- Stromare all over the place and Pryce coolly self-contained -- to hilarious effect. The faces alone in this movie are wonderful, hearkening back to the glory days of Leone. There are so many telling details in the background ("Bienvenue a Karlstadt") -- let alone the foreground -- that show Gilliam's mastery. Harry Potter (which I enjoyed), Lord of the Rings, and Chronicles of Narnia are for the kiddies and show us worlds we can, with effort, control. Gilliam doesn't offer any such comfort, not even at the end. The sense of menace is overwhelming, and Gilliam achieves it without super-special effects, usually camera movement (the shots following Little Red Riding Hood through the forest made my jaw drop). A brilliant film, operating at a high level we don't see much of these days. Someone compared the movie to Burton's Big Fish, another film dismissed or ignored by critics and public. Although Burton's and Gilliam's sensibilities differ, I take the writer's point. The confident, poetic handling of myth and archetype in both astonishes.
Watered-Down Gilliam Is Better Than No Gilliam7/10
Rather than fight yet another war with Hollywood (see: "Brazil", "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen", and "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote"), Terry Gilliam took off his gloves and allowed the Weinsteins and Miramax to force their will upon him. With his new film "Tideland" coming out soon, Gilliam chose to focus his efforts on molding it, while allowing "The Brothers Grimm" to go wherever the studio wanted to take it. The result is by far the most commercial film to Gilliam's name, but in this case watered-down Gilliam is better than no Gilliam, and his first film in seven years ("Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" in 1998) is a fun one.

"The Brothers Grimm" certainly looks like a Terry Gilliam movie, loaded with extravagant visuals and wide angled shots, although the $80 million budget did allow for his first use of CGI (it really isn't too bad, though), and it does not have the incredibly surreal feeling to it that most Gilliam films have. It takes a bit of time to get used to Matt Damon (as Will Grimm) and Heath Ledger, moreso Damon, as Ledger is surprisingly good as Jacob Grimm. The film was much more humorous than I had expected, and has plenty of subtle Gilliam humor. Many will find Peter Stormare' Cavaldi character to be extremely annoying, but I thought he was hilarious, and one of the highlights of the movie. Jonathan Pryce returns to another Gilliam movie as Delatombe, and does a decent job, although his character was a little overly obnoxious at times. Lena Headey is good as Angelika, and Monica Bellucci also pulls off a good performance, although unfortunately she does not get a significant amount of screen time.

The plot of "The Brothers Grimm" wanders a lot, and I actually thought the movie was winding down at around the 90 minute mark, but this works somewhat to the film's advantage, as it makes a fairly straightforward plot seem slightly less predictable. The film is much sillier than the promos may lead to believe, and that probably will not come us much of a surprise to big Gilliam fans. Unlike previous Gilliam movies, however, there really is no substance behind what we see on screen, so what we get is really the first 'popcorn flick' with Gilliam's name on it. Like all Terry Gilliam movies, the reaction will be mixed, and there will be some people who absolutely love it, and some who name it their worst film of the year. As far as I'm concerned, "Grimm" does not hold a candle to Terry Gilliam's previous films, but it is one of the better 'big summer movies', and I certainly felt my time was well spent watching it.

3 stars (out of 4)