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STUDIO: Miramax
MSRP: $29.99
RATING: PG-13
RUNNING TIME: 119 min.
SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Commentary
- Featurettes
- Deleted Scenes

THE PITCH

“It’s Ghostbusters meets Gilliam!”

THE HUMANS

Heath Ledger (Roar, The Order), Matt Damon (Courage Under Fire, Titan A.E.), Peter Stormare (Mercury Rising, Bruiser), Lena Headey (Gossip, Anazapta), Monica Bellucci (Dobermann, The Matrix Revolutions), Jonathan Pryce (Shopping, Jumpin’ Jack Flash)

THE NUTSHELL

Brothers Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm (Damon and Ledger) are charlatan “spook hunters” traveling through war-torn Napoleonic 19th century Europe and taking advantage of small villages whose denizens are inclined to believe their nearby forests are haunted. But after cheating some peasants of funds with their smoke-and-mirrors show, the Grimms are exposed by French governor Delatombe (Pryce) and taken into custody. Unless they can solve the strange disappearance of young girls from the town of Marbaden, the brothers will find their necks under the guillotine.

Dispatched under the aegis of obnoxious henchman Cavaldi (Stormare, this time playing an Italian?), the Grimms face their first genuine encounter with the supernatural: a centuries-old queen (Bellucci) in an castle located in the surrounding forest. Along with the local huntress, the headstrong Angelika (Headey), Will and Jake venture forth into the enchanted forest where they find genuine paranormal threats in the form of a vicious werewolf, some rather irritable trees, and the ancient witch herself, who plans to use the stolen local girls to restore her youth.


The new iPod Baroque — brassy fashion for those who prefer the impractical.

THE PACKAGE

The 1.85:1 transfer itself looks appropriately fantastic, with opulent colors and frightening blacks, all with a zealous but not overwhelming Dolby 5.1 audio track. There’s also a worthwhile solo commentary by the mumbly Gilliam, who’s candid but reasonably diplomatic about the troublesome production (which he admits he originally took for the paycheck). There’s also 15 minutes worth of deleted/alternate scenes (from a film that already feels too long) that aren’t a considerable loss, especially since many of them include the grotesquely over-the-top Cavaldi, but there’s one neat unfinished sequence (at least I assume the FX work wouldn’t look that shoddy in the finished cut) of the brothers and Angelika battling a massive rampaging tree.

The 16 minute featurette “Bringing the Fairy Tale to Life” has a significant amount of effusive praise by the cast and crew for other members of the cast and crew, plus a tour of the impressive sets. In the 9-minute quickie focusing on some of the major special effects (including what appears to be a hot female VFX artist), Gilliam talks about how they ditched a practical mockup of the werewolf for a digital creation, but while the transformation is innovative it looks pretty terrible. Also, I prefer the box art to the “floating heads” theatrical poster, although it seems to be aiming for Brotherhood of the Wolf fans.


Ledger fails to impress anyone with his one-man rendition of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in its entirety.

THE LOWDOWN

The Brothers Grimm starts with a foundation that holds plenty of promise by presenting the titular siblings as exorcists-for-hire, itinerant hustlers whose experiences provide a “real” origin to all those familiar childhood fairy tales. Part thriller, comedy, fantasy and horror movie (and maddeningly unsure of which it wants to be), it seems like material perfectly suited to the man behind Time Bandits and Brazil and Baron Munchausen. Which makes it all the more frustrating that the movie never really clicks, just erratically bumps and lurches along like one of the Grimms’ intricate archaic contraptions.

The Grimms are essentially the 1800s precursor to the X-Files, but rather than investigate supernatural activity they feign it to prey on the superstitious. With his empirical approach, Will is the Scullyish skeptic, while Jake is the scribe and lifelong believer (sometimes gullibly so). Unfortunately that’s about all the characterization they’re given to play with, and Damon’s straight man comes across nearly as bland as Ledger is twitchy (the pair is further encumbered by Stormare at his embarrassingly hammy worst — this guy has played villains from every country on the planet, yet always has the same exact accent). As the statuesque monster-hunter, Headey (that’s Headey) is a lovely non-entity, and the alluring Bellucci is all but wasted in her brief appearance as the wicked queen.


The pen was a rather nice gift from Gyllenhaal, but Heath couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t write or why he’d named it "The Magic Bullet".

As a longtime Gilliam fan, it’s great to see him get a big-budget opportunity, even one as problematic as this — his surreal wizardry makes wonderful use of the brothers’ deceitful theatrics (and his penchant for scenes of idealistic dreamers being tortured). From costumes to set design, the general appearance of the film is phantasmagorical, despite some patchy CGI (in one ghastly scene, a village girl inexplicably has her face removed by a poorly rendered CG gingerbread man made of either mud or fecal matter), and there are fanciful allusions to many classic fairy tales (Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, etc.). But it never truly capitalizes on the concept and despite his extravagant vision can’t decide on a consistent tone (it’s far too horrific and shocking for children), nor can it transform Ehren Kruger’s sprawling script clutter into an cogent story with engaging characters, and so we’re disappointingly left with just a visual sampling of Gilliam’s twisted imagination.

6.7 out of 10