|The Brothers Grimm (2005)
Starring: Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Monica Belluci, Jonathan Pryce, Peter Stormare
Director: Terry Gilliam
ALSO! Check out where it ranked in our 2005 Year in Review.
It’s said that there are things in life that are so beautiful that men would go to war for them. “The Brothers Grimm,” on the other hand, is so bad that it will start riots. Indeed, three of the fellow viewers at the screening I attended were actually angry when they left, frustrated beyond belief that someone as talented as Terry Gilliam could make something so spectacularly awful. “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” and “The Dukes of Hazzard” were bad too, but there was no chance that they would be anything but bad. Anytime Terry Gilliam is behind the camera, however, there’s the chance you might see something magical. Which makes it all the more frustrating when Gilliam makes a movie that turns out to be complete and utter dogshit.
Matt Damon and Heath Ledger star as Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, two brothers in French occupied Germany who make a living battling ghosts and demons, which is easier than it sounds, since the ghosts and demons are just elaborate parlor tricks staged by the brothers and a couple of henchmen. (Jacob himself was swindled as a child by someone who sold him magic beans that would allegedly cure his ailing sister, who of course died. The seed, as they say, was planted.) The French ruler knows about them, and rather than merely put them to death, he decides to torture them a little bit first. He has heard rumblings about a village bordering a forest that truly appears to be enchanted, and young girls from the village are disappearing. The brothers Grimm are sent there to “solve” their problem, which the ruler expects will end with them getting burned alive by the townsfolk.
Will thinks that the woods are just the work of someone who’s performing an even more elaborate ruse than the ones that he and Jacob perform. But Jacob knows better; he notices that the trees are indeed moving, and he’s read all the fairy tales that Will dismisses, and recognizes a similarity to a story about a queen (Monica Belluci) who loved to gaze upon her reflection. They enlist the reluctant help of a tracker named Angelika (Lena Headey) to get them out of the woods alive.
It’s difficult to tell where to begin with what is wrong with this movie. It doesn’t seem to have any idea what it wants to be. Is it a comedic thriller? Is it a thrilling comedy? Actually, it’s neither, since the comedic bits aren’t funny and the movie is entirely thrill-free. Ledger didn’t even bother to switch his accent from Australian to English. Ehren Kruger’s script is insufferable, leaving nothing whatsoever to the imagination. Take the scene where Angelika stands face to face with the big bad wolf that prowls the forest (the same wolf that, yes, snagged Greta, sister of Hans, and a girl in a red hood). It’s clear she notices something in the wolf’s eyes, as they show her staring deeply into them while the wolf’s eyes seem to glow at the sight of Angelika. But they decide to go one step further; after the wolf runs away, Angelika says, “His eyes,” just in case anyone may have missed the sledgehammer subtlety of the moment.
And then, they make her say it again. “His eyes.”
Are, you, kidding me? Was there anyone who needed her to say it a first time, never mind a second time? It’s clear that the filmmakers had no idea how the movie was going to turn out, and therefore covered all bases to make sure it wasn’t too obtuse. In other words, they knew they were making a turkey.
The love triangle between the brothers and Angelika is woefully mishandled. Her feelings for them are so unclear, she winds up looking like she’s trying to bed both of them. Kruger wrote the script for “The Skeleton Key” as well, which is a beacon of timing and subtlety compared to this. He’s not the best screenwriter in the world, but he’s absolutely better than this, which suggests that someone else tried to punch the script up after Kruger was involved with the production, but left his name on it. Poor bastard.
Harvey Weinstein is almost as well known for the movies he doesn’t release as he is for the movies he does release; the vaults at Miramax/Dimension allegedly hold hundreds and hundreds of movies that will never see the light of day. I’m not sure if releasing “The Brothers Grimm,” after missing multiple deadlines, was one of Weinstein’s last missives or the act of the new regime, but they would have been wise to shelve this one for all eternity.
As if the seeing it once wasn’t bad enough, the widescreen DVD release offers moviegoers the chance of owning Terry Gilliam’s latest fantasy tale, but despite an average selection of bonus material, this disc is one well worth keeping far from your collection. Along with a feature commentary with director Gilliam, the single-disc release also includes twelve deleted scenes with option commentary and two production featurettes on the SFX and making-of the film.