Brothers Grimm
A scene from the most expensive high school production of “The Nutcracker” ever.

Theatrical Release Date: 08/26/2005
Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Monica Bellucci, Lena Headey

What kind of film can keep Peter Stormare and Jonathan Pryce from chewing up the scenery? Answer: “The Brothers Grimm”, Terry Gilliam’s latest effort which attempts to bring the legendary duo’s exploits to technicolor life. Unfortunately, considering my respect for Gilliam’s work, the film was closer to DOA than alive and kicking.

Given his previous credits, such as “Time Bandits” and “Twelve Monkeys”, I was hoping the film would, at the very least, provide a rich, amazing environment where fairy tales could come to life. Sans little people and Bruce Willis, Gilliam had to rely on Matt Damon and Heath Ledger to portray the titular characters. It’s not that they are bad … no wait, yes they are. I like both actors normally but in this endeavor, none of their more charismatic traits were on display.

While it would have been harder to get money for the budget, this film would have been much better off casting two unknowns and perhaps only casting a recognized name for the evil Queen, played nicely in the film by Monica Bellucci. Gilliam’s films rarely need a known entity in front of the camera because of the way he shoots scenes, almost always in a master shot involving all the characters and background action. This can be interesting in small doses, but throughout an entire film … my eyes were glossing over about a third of the way through.

Casting and directing aside, we come to writing. You can boil the film’s synopsis down to the Queen needing child sacrifices to regain her beauty and the Brothers Grimm are there to try and stop her. There’s really not much else going on, and even the casual references to other characters and events aren’t explored anyway, so they don’t matter.

Such simplicity is not necessarily a bad thing and there were some clever touches, dropping in bits and pieces from multiple fairy tales to craft the film’s plot. However, in trying to weave so many aspects together, the overall tone of the film is like a stagnant pool of water, and I was asking to throw in the towel early on this one.

Probably 25 minutes into the film, I half-jokingly said to my friend, “I’m bored, want to go get some coffee?” If she had said yes, I would have only a partial review available. But she just agreed that the film was less than stellar and we stuck it out.

There were some high points to the film. At one point, a cat is propelled into a torture device and it explodes in an orgy of blood and fur … priceless. In another scene, a horse swallows a child and carries it back to the forest inside its belly. That’s pretty damn cool. It is in those child abduction scenes that Gilliam’s imagination is at its finest … but there are only a few of those scenes, so don’t get too excited. I didn’t.

Overall, the film was just boring. I wanted it to end after 10 or 15 minutes and because the Brothers Grimm were trying to discover a man-made cause for the child abductions, I was half-hoping Gilliam would pop out from behind some bales of hay and say, “I totally got you guys! It was me the whole time!” But alas, it was not to be.

Uh-oh, here comes a SPOILER! At the end of the film, it says “And they lived happily ever”. Didn’t see that coming did you? Unfortunately that happily ever after does not apply to the audience. Thank Jeebus I don’t pay for these things. I would have wanted a refund.

It’s a sad day when I have to give Terry Gilliam a 2 out of 5. That keg of Foster’s would have helped me pass out early on, only to await the end credits so I could go home. Which is where I am now. And I can tell you one thing I will not be leaving for is another showing of “The Brothers Grimm”. I’d rather watch a re-run of The Today Show.