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If Terry Gilliam, the director of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," "Time Bandits," "Brazil," "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen," and "The Fisher King," wants to make a movie about the Brothers Grimm in which their fairy tales turn out to be real, then that should be a real winner. So the question on the table is why the 2005 film "The Brothers Grimm" is not a winner. When I sat down to watch this film I was hoping for something along the lines of "Ever After: A Cinderella Story" (in which the brothers appear in the prologue) or even "Sleepy Hollow," but what we end up with is much more in the spirit of "Ghostbusters," and not in a good way.
The initial misstep in this adventure comes when it is decided that Wilhelm (Matt Damon) and Jacob Grimm (Heath Ledger) will not simply be nonbelievers, but that instead they would be con-artists who exploit the believe of the common folk in witches and other things that go bump in the night ("Eliminating Evil Since 1812" is the film's tagline). The fairy tales do appear, but they are not really integrated into the story in any significant way by screenwriter Ehren Kruger, who has previously written "Scream 3," "The Ring," "The Ring Two" and "Skeleton Key." This resume comes into play because looking it over I was thinking that the story should have been more along the lines of "The Ring" films rather than trying for the tongue-in-cheek approach of the "Scream" films. This is especially true since the way the images from the video in "The Ring" were integrated into the story were rather successful, which proves Kruger can do such things, but chose not to do so to great effect in this film.
The look of the film is, as you would expect with Gilliam as the director, to be sumptuous. Guy Hendrix Dyas did the production design and set decoration (the latter with Judy Farr), with art direction by Andy Thomson and Frank Walsh, and costumes designed by Gabriella Pescucci and Carlo Poggioli, all of whom do most commendable work generally worthy of Oscar consideration (I do not like the Grimm's armor only because it is the chief symbol of their work a con-men, which I have faulted above). Having golden boys Damon and Ledger as the titular siblings probably helped get the film made and marketed, but I wonder if having unknowns would have helped make the story they chose to tell her work, since you have hero types playing against type for most of the film and for the most part their comic ineptitude falls flat for me.
Anyhow, the Grimms are revealed to be charlatans by Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce), who is Napoleon's representative in Germany. Instead of executing the con artists he dispatches them in another way, sending them to the village of Marbaden. Children there have gone missing and the nearby forest appears to be haunted. Delatombe sends along Cavaldi (Peter Stormare), his master of torture to make sure the Grimms do not run away. Apparently the Frenchman thinks the Grimms will either figure out the scam or die in the process. Of course the forest turns out to really be enchanted and is ruled by the 500-year-old Mirror Queen (Monica Bellucci). If not for the lovely huntswoman, Angelika (Lena Headey), this movie would be a lot shorter. When the brothers worry more about romancing the huntswoman than fearing the queen I was again thinking that this film was simply playing its hand the wrong way.
There was a really good film about the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm that could have been made and if Gilliam could not get it done I suspect it will be several generations before someone ventures into this specific territory again. But there are such works as the Stephen Sondheim musical "Into the Woods," Orson Scott Card's novel "Enchanted," and others you can certainly name yourself if you are fans of the genre that make it clear we should have been treated to something so much better than this tale of "The Brothers Grimm."
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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