Dimension Films presents
The Brothers Grimm (2005)
"We're here to save your land from evil enchantments!"- Will Grimm (Matt Damon)
Stars: Heath Ledger, Matt Damon
Other Stars: Lena Headey, Peter Stormare, Jonathan Pryce, Monica Bellucci, Laura Greenwood, Bruce MacEwen, Julian Bleach, Richard Ridings, Mackenzie Crook
Director: Terry Gilliam
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, frightening sequences, brief suggestive material
Run Time: 01h:58m:21s
Release Date: 2005-12-20
Genre: action comedy
DVD ReviewThere are very few directors whose work consistently thrills me as much as Terry Gilliam, a man with a long list of what I consider to be truly imaginative films, including 12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The common thread in a Gilliam film is the fingerprint of surreal fantasy, whether it intrudes on reality as it does in The Fisher King or drips out of every frame, as in his opus Brazil. Notorious for going over budget on films that rarely become certifiable "hits," Gilliam is an iconoclast, a kind of creative rebel who seems to buck mainstream normalcy for offbeat, grown-up fantasy.
The Brothers Grimm is yet another troubled, overbudget Gilliam film, a shelved project mired in mostly tepid theatrical reviews when it was finally released in early 2005. The script came from the often maligned pen of Ehren Kruger, whose strongest works (Arlington Road, The Ring) dovetail with his flimsiest (The Ring Two, Reindeer Games, Scream 3), making him a questionable .500 hitter in a lot of minds. With this screenplay, Kruger shows his better stuff, putting a Frighteners/Ghostbusters spin on titular brothers Will (Matt Damon) and Jacob (Heath Ledger), who race around French occupied Germany in the early 1800s, ridding anxious villages of witches and monsters they themselves have manufactured. It's easy money until the duplicitous French officer Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce) forces them to solve the mystery of ten missing girls, and the brothers end up facing a real-life "myth" in the form of an evil 500-year-old Thuringian queen (Monica Bellucci) and her high, dark tower in the middle of a very creepy forest, populated by overactive trees and the occasional werewolf.
It's a fairly hip concept, one that Gilliam struggles with a bit early on as the tone of the film goes through some growing pains until the meat of the plot develops. The physical comedy seems overdone at the outset, and it takes some getting used to Peter Stormare's buffoonish villain Cavaldi—a self-described "master of the torturing arts"—whose syrupy accent seems at first more like a caricature. Yet the Cavaldi character overcomes a rough introduction, and the evolution to well-played comic relief helps to balance the constantly bickering Grimms and their shared romantic interest in mysterious trapper Angelika (Lena Headey).
Gilliam shows off his twisted best material during the forest scenes, with sequences recreating some classic fairytale moments (Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel), and this is where the director displays that streak of demented fantasy-driven visuals that mark his work: a young girl is swallowed whole by an enchanted horse, and the brothers chase the bloated beast across the countryside;another child finds herself on the bad end of an encounter with a particularly menacing gingerbread man. Gilliam seems at home with off-kilter visuals like these, presenting them with a range of CG effects that unfortunately run the gamut from very good to iffy. Last-minute issues with the creation of the wolf, one of the weaker visual effects—originally intended to be animatronic—is discussed in the DVD extras, with Gilliam more or less implying it was a rush job. And it does seem to stand out, but not always in a good way.
The small miscue of a visual effect here, or a piece of rough-edged comedy that sometimes goes on too long there, threaten parts of the narrative in spots and I had some trepidation that the director would be able to even it out. The shaky spots, however, are mostly front-loaded, and the third act barrels through nicely in true bizarre Gilliam form, featuring a battle against the sexy evilness of Bellucci's vain and deadly queen. As a whole, perhaps this is not Gilliam's finest hour, but for all the unjust critical pistol-whipping The Brothers Grimm has endured, one might expect it to be on par with deadweights like Gigli or From Justin to Kelly. Remember that this is still a Terry Gilliam film, and that should tell you all you need to know.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Issued in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the generally sharp looking transfer here is unfortunately marred by some recurring edge enhancement that knocks this one down a few pegs on the old rating scale. It's a shame, because the look and feel of the colors and textures—whether it be the dominant gold/reds of the forest or the dirty black/browns of the villages—in turn look properly lush and gritty. Fleshtone levels look natural throughout, and colors are evenly rendered.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Audio choices are available in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround, in either the original English language or a fair French dub. Dialogue is clear at all times, and the front channels are presented with a broad spatial feel to them, accented by frequent pans and discrete sound cues that paint a wide canvas from left to center to right. Rears get a solid workout during the forest sequences especially, with groans, creaks and other strange sounds adding to the ambiance. Bass levels are appropriately deep, and even small things like a punch to the face have a thick rumble to it.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Flight Plan, Underclassmen, Dark Water
12 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Terry Gilliam
Extras Review: Terry Gilliam provides another of his usual first-rate commentary tracks here, and while he doesn't necessarily touch on subjects not heard on countless other commentaries (location, sets, etc), his approach is laced with a steady helping of dry humor. There is lots of logically assemble info to be found on this track, with Gilliam rarely at a loss for words.
A set of 12 deleted scenes (15m:05s) is available with optional commentary from Gilliam, and for a film pushing two hours it's no surprise most were cut for the usual pacing reasons. There is also a pair of behind-the-scenes pieces, the first of which is Bringing the Fairytale to Life (16m:30s). Amidst production footage, we're offered comments from the cast, all of whom bow at the altar of Gilliam, and for some reason Matt Damon stresses that this isn't an actual biography. And I thought there really could be 500-year-old queens. The Visual Magic of The Brothers Grimm (08m:41s), while the shorter of the two, is infinitely better. Gilliam and the visual effects team talk about the reluctant use of CG, the hassles of wolf heads and the segment on the creation of a face-shattering scene was darn interesting.
The disc is cut into 22 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsHere's one of the more generally anticipated but equally reviled films of 2005, perhaps more so since it came from the visionary Terry Gilliam.
I simply can't blindly crap on Gilliam like so many have, because as a director the guy consistently makes films that really connect with me on a number of levels, and there's just something about his visual approach that reinforces in me that he "gets it," with "it" being some innate ability to create fantasy that is both childish and frightening.
And for the small stumbles here, that "it" is still present in The Brothers Grimm. I'm in the minority, but this one comes recommended.
Rich Rosell 2006-01-04