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The Brothers Grimm

Terry Gilliam's fantasy film in which the famous storytelling brothers have fantastical adventures.

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"Fractured Fairy Tales": Better Assembly Required

  • Aug 8, 2006
Terry Gilliam's 'The Brothers Grimm' has a lot going for it. Stunning visually and occasionally funny, this madcap farce could have been great. Heath Ledger and Matt Damon give spirited performances as Wil and Jacob Grimm. Furthermore, the cinematography is beautifully illuminating, and the scenes are filled with cliff-hanging adventure. So why doesn't it all work?

The components are all top quality, but it doesn't really come together. There are even two plots skillfully interwoven: The Brothers Grimm are kidnapped at a local pub by French soldiers and are conscripted to save an enchanted forest. The vignettes of the fairy tales then work their way loosely into the main plot. The effect is not unlike a Mel Brook's movie. Gilliam and company do to the Grimm's fairy tales what Brooks did to the Frankenstein movies (in 'Young Frankenstein') or to Hitchcock (with 'High Anxiety'), except it seldom works right. They also draw from other sources, making the inspiration of Grimm's 'Fairy Tales' much the way 'Shakespeare in Love' did for Shakespeare's plays. It's a good premise to borrow from, but the execution also falls flat. The film also remains true to the absurd Monty Python tradition, but these elements often come off as forced and arbitrary. There are bizarre elements as well, but this, too, is done in a random fashion. (There is, for instance, an odd predilection for creepy insects that appear throughout the movie that seem unconnected to anything else that happens.) Also, the sibling rivalry from the brother's relationship could have provided entertaining banter. Instead, we get wit that wouldn't remind one of the weakest moments from the TV series 'Frazier'; and the slapstick is slapdash--nothing that would make it on the Cartoon Network. If they did the whole affair straightforward, they would have made a magnificent movie. But, in all fairness, one should judge a film by what it is rather than what it could have been. True enough. As a farce or as a weird trek, it fails. Gilliam's brilliant work 'Brazil' illustrates why this movie pales in comparison--even though the special effects are matchless next to any other Python work. As an offbeat adventure, it also falls short. The only thing that does work is the traditional adventure and enchantment. They could have fixed the film in two ways: If the writing were far better caliber, they would have made a movie par with the 'Bullwinkle' series, but as a grander spectacle, of course. Their only other recourse was to play it straight and build an exciting adventure with a few, selective laughs thrown in. And, with the ending, they almost pulled it off--instead it comes together with too many elements that don't work together. The whole affair seems haphazard. This is an admirable effort, but the shortcomings provide too many disappointments. (**1/2)

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December 21, 2010
Thanks, Woopak, you always inspire and encourage me. JP
December 16, 2010
nice one, JP!
More The Brothers Grimm reviews
review by . November 22, 2008
Recall your happy childhood days   And your favorite bedtime story   Well this one isn't one of those   It's dark and gross and gory     The Brothers Grimm travel the land   Removing "spells" and "curses"   I'd love to tell you all their tricks   But it'd take too many verses     Suffice to say they con their way   As experts in their field   By recreating old wife's tales   With …
review by . July 30, 2007
British comedy is not for everyone, and british action flicks are really not for most people, especially when starring American actors. Once you understand and accept this fact of life, then you realize how good a movie this really is. The storyline is simple; the two Grimm brothers (Damon and Ledger) are traveling con men in Napeolonic Europe. They use their knowledge of optics, chemistry, physics and psychology to create apparitions in isolated villages, and then appear to save the villagers from …
review by . April 01, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
THE BROTHERS GRIMM is a thrilling adventure from the mind of Terry Gilliam set against the backdrop of a fairy tale with two protagonists pulled from real life. The story stars Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as Will and Jacob Grimm, the two scholars of history who traveled throughout Germany gathering the old fairy tales and legends that had been passed down through the generations through storytelling and collected them together in one collection. Except, the Will and Jacob Grimm in THE BROTHERS GRIMM …
review by . November 05, 2006
This movie is almost like Evil Dead meets Ever After and Van Helsing, while Sleep Hollow provides the backdrop. This movie is like a mainstream B movie. There were times I found myself laughing out loud at how cheesy or genuinely funny the movie was. I would say Matt Damon and Heath Ledger didn't do a bad job acting, however both of their performances aren't anything to get excited about either.    It is worth watching this movie just to see some of the set design and SOME of …
review by . December 25, 2005
Few complain when writers and directors take a fresh take on an old story: at times the new approach even enhances the original. Sadly, that is not the case with THE BROTHERS GRIMM. Though Terry Gilliam is well recognized as one who makes magic out of old things retold, this time the magic seems to have been concentrated on costumes, weird head pieces, claustrophobic haunted villages, and animated effects. As a result the story is left behind and without a decent script, leaves little for the actors …
About the reviewer
John L. Peterson ()
Ranked #100
I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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