The Barenaked Archives: The Brothers Grimm

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies.

The Barenaked Archives are reviews that I did for two previous websites. Sadly, they are both gone, so this is now the only place online you can see these old columns.

the Brothers Grimm The easiest reviews to write, hands-down, are the ones for the movies that you absolutely love, that are so good and hit all the marks that it takes every ounce of willpower in your being not to drag everybody you know to the theater multiple times to watch them, or the ones that you loathe, that make you want to stick needles through your eyes so that they will never again have to be subjected to the complete and utter crap they just witnessed.

But the hardest ones to write are the mixed reviews. The movie’s not so bad as to be offensive, but it’s not so good as to be memorable. It’s so decidedly middle-of-the-road that the only word to describe it is “meh.”

Sadly, that is how one can sum up The Brothers Grimm: meh.

It’s a pity, too, as the phrase “directed by Terry Gilliam” should ensure something more than a shrug and apathy.

Brothers Will (Matt Damon) and Jake Grimm (Heath Ledger) make their living riding through the German countryside, exorcising “demons” from grateful villages for a hefty fee. When the authorities catch up with them, the brothers are sent to a forest village where nine girls have disappeared. If they can catch the tricksters behind the abductions, they’ll be granted amnesty. However, it becomes quickly apparent that the Grimms may be out of their league when they find out the forest actually is enchanted.

In case you can’t tell, this isn’t a biography.

Visually the movie has some definite high spots, such as the design for the enchanted forest (very dark and creepy, with its living trees), the queen’s cobweb-encrusted tower room, and the Grimms’ impressive array of equipment with which they perpetrate their hoax. But at times it seems as though Gilliam said, “Wow, wouldn’t this be awesome?” and then did it. It’s a lot of style with little substance, but then, he wasn’t given that great of a script to work with.

The foundation for this story comes to us courtesy Ehren Kruger, whose previous work includes The Skeleton Key (and you know how I felt about that). The script hits mediocre at its best parts, and we just won’t talk about the worst. The movie spends a lot of time repeating itself, as we go from the village to the forest back to the village back to the forest. Lather, rinse, and repeat for the better part of two hours.

Yes, it gets dull, and no matter how hard the others involved try, they can’t raise it to a level where we actually care. It almost feels mean and petty to take shots at Damon and Ledger when they simply did the best with what little they were given.

The brothers Grimm are given stock traits (Jake is imaginative and believes in fairy tales; Will is a womanizing realist, the salesman of the two) and something that could be construed as motivation at the beginning of the film. However, just in case you aren’t certain about their motivation, Will mentions it three, four, 18 times throughout the course of the movie. You know, just to be sure you get it.

Thankfully, there is an attempt to give you the one thing you would expect from a movie entitled The Brothers Grimm: a few scenes involving the fairy tales for which they’re so well known. References to Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Cinderella, and Rapunzel (to name a few) are made, which is nice. Sadly, more time is spent on the French army than on the fairy tales, and it hurts the movie.

Akira Kurosawa once said, “With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece. With the same script, a mediocre director can produce a passable film. But with a bad script, even a good director can’t possibly make a good film.”

Translation: Even if you’re Leonardo da Vinci, you still can’t paint the Last Supper with liquid poo.

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