The Brothers Grimm Movie ReviewPosted by: The Dude
Terry Gilliam movies are like pizza: even when it's not that great, it's still pretty damn good. Or at least interesting enough to warrant a story. Ok, so that's a terrible analogy, and it doesn't make too much sense, in metaphor AND grammatical ways. Point is, and this is strictly speaking from an opinion of a man that loves every Gilliam film out there, when he takes a rare misstep, it's still fascinating to watch, even if afterwards you're left hollow, wanting a little more something, well, Gilliam.
I just got back from The Brother's Grimm, Gilliam's latest film, and his first since Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas back in 1998. After seeing Lost in La Mancha, the heartbreaking documentary chronicling the torturous process of Gilliam attempting to make Don Quioxte and facing every possible hurdle imaginable in only 6 days of production, I'm just glad to see Gilliam behind the camera again. While I liked the film, a lot in some parts to be fair, I felt kind of cheated. As if there was another movie in there that Gilliam really wanted to make, but lost so many battles to the Weinsteins (I heard the film is heavily edited) that he just kind of gave up and was happy to be working again.
The Brothers Grimm tells the story of, well, the Brothers Grimm.(title) Will (Matt Damon) and Jacob (Heath Ledger) travel the country side of a French occupied Germany, conning the local people with what they believe are ghosts and spirits. Kind of like Peter Jackson's The Frighteners, where Michael J. Fox would trick people into thinking they were possessed. Then, in an act of pure showmanship, the brothers manage to vanquish the evil forces, collecting a heavy fee for their services. (One of their helpers in Mackenzie Crook, from the British version of The Office, and the pirate with the wooden eye from Pirates of the Caribbean). They are caught by Jonathan Pryce, the French commander who presides over the German lands.
Pryce offers them a pardon for all they've stolen: Ten little girls have gone missing from a local village. The brothers are to find the girls, and calm the townsfolk down. The townsfolk believe in magic and by bringing in the famous brothers Grimm, their collective minds should be set at ease. The problem arises when the culprit behind the abductions turns out to be the magical 500 year old Mirror Queen (Monica Bellucci. Mmmmmm.....Monica Bellucci). Will skeptic Will Grimm finally believe in the magic he has lied about for years? Will neurotic Jacob finally grow a pair and rise to save the day? Will Monica come over to my apartment, scantily clad, and play video games all night while I drool over her? Well, the movie answers 2 of these questions. Time will tell on the third.
The setting is there for a really great Gilliam film. Fairy tales debunked, creepy woodlands, medieval times. But there's something lacking. The story itself isn't all that great. It's written by Ehren Kruger, who recently wrote Skeleton Key, a film I didn't like too much, solely based on how poor the script was. There seems, onscreen, to be a struggle between what was on the page and what was in Gilliam's mind. There are glimpses of genius in images (the film is beautiful to look at) but again, it seemed like it had to keep being reigned in to service the tiny story that was there. It does have some fun at times, like when it casually throws in "cameos" from fairy tales (I liked the Red Riding Caped Girl, and the appearance of the Gingerbread man, was really cool, if not very strange) while not feeling like Shrek just throwing them in for comedic value. There are also a few good one liners (the one Will says about Jacob's armor made me laugh quite heartily). But overall, it's just running back and forth between two locations trying to find new ways to keep such a thin story on screen for two hours.
The performances are fine. Matt Damon and particularly Heath Ledger, are great as the brothers, and they have a good rapport. There's a trend in Gilliam films to have a pair of protagonists, where one is more of a straight man, and the other is allowed a stranger, wilder performance that overshadows. (Robin Williams to Jeff Bridges in Fisher King. Brad Pitt to Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys. Benicio Del Toro to johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing, although both those characters were pretty messed up). this one seems to follow that pattern, but Ledger pulls it together, and gives a fun performance that I didn't expect from him. I like that Heath Ledger guy, I don't care what anybody else says. Also good in the cast was Peter Stormare (the wood chipper guy from Fargo) as an Italian torturer who is assigned to tag along with the Brothers to make sure they complete the task. He's a lot of funny, even if it's difficult to understand what's being said. Lena Headey plays the female lead, but I will mention nothing of her as punishment for The Cave, which I viewed earlier this evening. And Monica Bellucci is a good lookin gal, but she doesn't have all that much to do. Still, she's hot.
The visuals are fantastic, and pure Gilliam. Like I said, beautiful movie.Good cinematography, and great production design. Although, I speak of framing and composition, and not of the special effects. The CGI is pretty bad, and I sat there in the theater wondering if Gilliam has had much experience with CGI, or if they were rushed on the effects. Or Dimension was being cheap. Either way, the wolf transformation was really cheesy. And soem of the other CG (except the witch in the beginning) feels kind of like amateur hour.
However, the music goes along quite well with the images. Bravo there.
The movie is good, don't get me wrong. I had a reasonably fun time watching it (although there were a bunch of strange people there, dressed in Ren Fair garb, and that made me a little worried. Note to management, I think they were drinking). But I wanted a truly awe inspiring work, not something that felt like a paycheck. I know Gilliam is capable of so much more. Who knows, maybe I'm being over critical. (God forbid, a critic being critical). I'll probably see it again, now that I know what to expect, and more importantly what not to expect. I would recommend the film just for the visuals alone, and to let people who aren't familiar with Gilliam to have a glimpse of greater things. But for those seeking something more from the great man, it looks like we have to wait for Tideland. (Premieres at Toronto Film Fest next month, in theaters this winter).