August 28, 2005

Brothers Grimm Grim

Hey, look, I made a Variety-style pun! Go me!

Anyway, The Brothers Grimm is the latest film from Terry Gilliam, he of the Monty Python and Brazil and Time Bandits. It sounds promising: Terry Gilliam building an horror/comedy out of classic fairy tale elements. And, stylistically, the end result is pleasantly reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow. Unfortunately, Brothers Grimm falls far short of Sleepy Hollow's high benchmark.

In the first act, continuity and character development take a back seat to sketching the basics of the plot and some preliminary spookiness. But, starting with the second act, the film becomes much more character driven. So, for example, a fair amount of the second act and denounement are driven by the differences between the "scientific" (or something, it's never quite clear) and the romantic, story-obsessed brother; differences which are never really portrayed until we actually get to the second act, and don't seem connected to their characters in any other way. Similar problems happen with the plot: people run away from the scary woods, then come back to fight the evil for ... reasons. Of some kind. We're not exactly sure why, beyond 'so we can see some neat special effects'.

But those are problems that could be fixed if maybe twenty minutes of film hadn't been cut to bring it in under two hours/save some of the Weinsteins' production cash. There are some far, far deeper problems, in the form of the cast and crew: Heath Ledger is the best actor in the film, next to the nameless Czech villagers. Someone somewhere is obsessed with frustrating, tight frames during tense moments when, presumably, a whole lot is going on. And so on. Apparently, Gilliam initially had high hopes: Nicole Kidman, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Williams, and Johnny Depp are listed in IMDb's Trivia as framing the original cast, along with a different female lead and cinematographer who were cut by the Weinstein brothers.

When I saw the poster for this film in a theater in Chicago five months ago, I thought it looked like a crappy action/fantasy Matt Damon/Heath Ledger vehicle. Then I learned it was Terry Gilliam's latest project, and I really started to get my hopes up. Sadly, it appears to be his newest Baron Munchausen, not his newest Time Bandits. If you enjoyed Sleepy Hollow, or Gilliam's other films, I would recommend this for a matinee: it's entertaining enough to fill a couple of hours, and audience support now will help Gilliam secure studio support for his future projects.


MosBen said...

I liked the film quite a lot actually.
And as to why they kept going back into the woods, weren't there about a dozen girls held captive there?

Unknown said...

The fundamental character difference between Will and Jake, which ended up playing such a pivotal role at the end of film, was established in the prologue, harped on in the first act, and carried consistently through the film. And while I certainly don't think "Sleepy Hollow" is anywhere near as bad as many people make it out to be, it's not as good as "The Brothers Grimm" in my opinion.