Movie Review: The Brothers Grimm (2005)

Seen: On dvd at a friend’s house, from my personal collection.

My freshman-year college dorm room was known as a movie-watching hangout, and I always left my dvd collection accessible to friends who stopped by, even if I wasn’t around. One day I came home to find several of them watching The Brothers Grimm, and of course outrightly hating it. I’m pretty sure they were mad at me for even owning such a movie, and not warning them against it, though I assured them it’s something I would never recommend they watch. I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone who wasn’t a crazy Gilliam fan. The film is a strange combination of comedy, fantasy, and action that pits the eponymous German storytellers Jacob (Heath Ledger) and Wilhelm (Matt Damon)- who con small towns into thinking they have otherworldly intruders and then “eradicate” them- against an honest-to-goodness evil magic queen. The occupying French government assigns them to the small town of Marbaden to root out the cause of several missing girls, and generally keep the peace so that the superstitious German people don’t rise up against them.

I really liked this movie when it came out. It’s an interesting blend of “fairy tale update” and historical satire, with imaginative visuals and a fantastic cast. It’s got this sinister edge that’s so Gilliam-esque even in a primarily light-hearted comedy. Several of the child-snatching scenes are down-right creepy, but then the affectations of Heath Ledger (who is adorable in this) and Peter Stormare remind us it is mainly a comedy-adventure. And it’s got jokes about hoity-toity French people! Awesome! Seriously, every scene with Jonathan Pryce as the French general are completely perfect. He creates his own hall of mirrors in a basement! That’s hilarious, you guys!

But watching it now after several years I really see its flaws. The visuals are beautiful, but limited technologically and it’s just too noticeable to my spoiled eye. The blending of multiple fairy tales is well-done, but the script is pretty weak and it drags like crazy. I remembered Lena Headey as being this total hunting badass, and she starts out that way, but she spends way too much time being held captive by both Peter Stormare and then the Queen, and it’s pretty bullshitty. The script was written by the same guy who wrote both Transformers sequels, though, so… maybe I shouldn’t expect much.

Oh well, I’ll still defend Gilliam for everything. He’s my guy.


Pair This Movie With: Several points reminded me of Stardust, another movie most people hated but I enjoy (and own).

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