ATTENTION: This review reveals content of the movie.
There has been a recent string or fairy tales being re-imagined as dark action movies recently. I’m talking about “Red Riding Hood”, “Beastly”, “Snow White and The Huntsman”, “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters”, “Jack the Giant Slayer” and the like. Bet you didn’t know that in 2005, Hollywood had made another dark reimagining of some classic fairytale characters with “The Brothers Grimm”. Sad to say, this is not one of those cases where it’s one of the first and the best. In fact, it’s pretty awful.
Matt Damon plays Will and Heath Ledger plays Jack. They’re the brothers Grimm. They spend their days conning superstitious folks into believing that their troubles are caused by witches or trolls and then ridding them of their “troubles”. They collect a handsome reward and go on their way to the next group of suckers. One day, they find themselves confronted with a REAL witch! Oh no! How are these two con artists going to save the day? And will they manage to catch the eye of the beautiful Angelika (Lena Headey) while also dodging the guillotine for the dishonest lives?
This movie constantly forces references to classic fairy tales down your throat. It doesn’t matter if it’s relevant to the plot, if it feels out of place, or if the heroes (who eventually wrote the stories we’ve come to love) are on screen to see them. We’ve got references to Snow White with an old witch carrying a red apple, someone wanting to be the “fairest of them all” and a magic mirror; we’ve got a little girl with a red cape being chased by a wolf in the forest and another commenting “what big eyes, ears and mouth you have”; a woman in a tower letting down her long hair for people to climb onto; an enchanted woman getting her finger pricked and only being able to be woken up by a kiss of true love; children commenting on a gingerbread house in the middle of the woods while laying a trail of breadcrumbs; people forced into cleaning the floors while being mockingly called “Cinderella”, young women wearing glass slippers, people kissing toads, trolls under bridges and in a sequence so bad it is both laugh-out-loud ridiculous and incredibly creepy, a creature made of mud steal’s a young woman’s face, shapes itself into a man, takes a bite out of it’s own arm and yells “You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man! ” We get it! It’s the brothers Grimm, they wrote fairy tales! How about delivering a compelling story now?!
Yes, let’s talk about the story. It’s dull. The bulk of the story repeats the same pattern: Characters go into the woods, spot something suspicious and then run back to town to tell the authorities something weird is going on. The authorities yell, the brothers journey to the one mysterious tower they’ve discovered, argue about whether or not what’s happening is real. And then back to town they go. For two brothers that have been on countless adventures together, Will and Jake sure don’t seem to get along or work well as a team. Every twenty minutes Will yells at Jake and reminds him of his tragic backstory, ANOTHER fairy tale reference that’s supposed to fill you with excitement, but instead makes you want to go to sleep.
The story is dull. It’s hindered by the endless references to other tales, but also by the bad humor and uninteresting characters. We’ve got a love interest in the form of Angelika. Her character is basically in there to create a rift between the two brothers. Sure, she also happens to be tied into the witch story but you won’t care about her. She spends the bulk of the picture as a hostage or knocked out by the villains anyway. Speaking of which, we’ve got a couple of cartoon characters here, sent by the writer to annoy and threaten our heroes. Peter Stormare plays Mercurio, an Italian coward who, in theory, should bring some comic relief (he talks exactly like the characters from the old “Superfriends” show, throwing in random Italian words in otherwise 100% English sentences) He’s incredibly irritating and every scene where he makes it out of danger alive is a disappointment. Then we have his superior, a French general who insists on overdoing everything. When he becomes convinced that the enchanted forest is infested with German rebels, it’s not enough that he has to set it on fire, he also ties up the brothers to be burned alive and shoots random cannonballs into the woods. Why not? He’s the kind of guy that kills his own minions if they disappoint him so he might as well be completely insane.
Is “The Brothers Grimm” supposed to be a fun adventure film, a dark fairy tale, or a piece of whimsical fiction about real-life people? It’s a bit of both and neither at the same time. More often than not it’s pretty fanciful and more along the swashbuckling side of action, then it’ll randomly become incredibly dark. Do decapitations, severed limbs on display and people being torn in half belong in the same film as a bunch of bumbling French soldiers with funny accents? This Terry Gilliam effort is nearly two hours long and it couldn’t wrap itself up quickly enough. There is so much padding and repetition that it could easily have trimmed a half-hour of the running time and not have suffered a bit. Forget “The Brothers Grimm” and while we’re at it, let’s burn all of these dark fairy tales at the stake. (Widescreen version on DVD, December 27, 2013)
Poor Mat Damon and the great, late Heath Ledger in the clutches of TERRY GILLIAM, a director I detest. I can't put it more directly. I literally hate everything he touches. In no way am I on the same wave length with him in an artistic sense so it is literally impossible to accept his ideas on film and film making. It's not just the idea of the brothers having to find a murderer or murderers, the premise of this film. It's the very nature of relating a story on film that bugs and annoys the hell out of me. The Brothers Grimm is no exception, but the Gilliam film I hate most is Brazil, possibly followed by Doctor Parnassus.