The Brothers Grimm

The Brothers Grimm

Film review by: Witney Seibold



            The Brothers Grimm starts out chaotically and confusingly with mere traces of workable humor or understandable story underneath a patina of murky photography and director Terry Gilliam’s own idiosyncratic form of wackiness. And just when I began to write the film off as the next Van Helsing, it unexpectedly shifted, and somehow pulled together into something, well not necessarily good, but certainly cogent, clear, and even imaginative.

            The setup: Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm (Matt Damon and Heath Ledger) are not authors of children’s tales, but hucksters who roam from hamlet to hamlet using special effects to enact local legends (like witches and ogres and the like), and then get themselves hired to exorcize the supernatural menace. They are caught by the French government (represented by Jonathan Pryce, hiding behind a terrible French accent), and are asked to expose another presumed huckster who has been stealing little girls in a nearby town. When they find that they are dealing with a real enchanted forest, a real big bad wolf, and a real Ice Queen, they must use their resourcefulness… etc. Peter Stormare is both obnoxious and funny as an Italian completion bondsman. Lean Heady plays the plucky, earthy love interest.

            I know that the film switched cinematographers halfway through, which may account for the way it cleared up. At the outset, I was in dire fear that the film would simply unravel into an orgy of well-designed traffic. But as the actual plot became clear, so did the storytelling. The characters became better outlined, the special effects became something less than frivolous, and Gilliam’s intentions came into light. And thank goodness. Gilliam’s power to create chaos can be appropriate (Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas), but can hurt the average careless filmgoer.



That comparison to Van Helsing, by the way, is an apt one, as both film use classic literature as a (very) loose basis for magical, computer-animated action-adventure; Helsing drawing from Universal’s classic monster flicks, and Grimm from a plethora of fairy tales, not all necessarily written by the Grimms: We have a riding hood, glass slippers, a gingerbread kid, the aforementioned bad wolf and ice queen, a group of living trees, a magic axe, and climbing up a tower with a woman’s hair. The film also resembles Tim Burton’s gorgeous Sleepy Hollow in a lot of ways: the darkness, fanciful acting style, and fairy tale qualities.

August 26th, Dimension Films

Published in: on January 30, 2009 at 2:07 am  Leave a Comment  

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