So, the rumour is that director Terry Gilliam left The Brothers Grimm at the mercy of the studio, let them cut up and change as much as they wanted, and focussed on the yet to be released Tideland. Well, guess what? It shows.
The Brothers Grimm is a top-heavy special effects film that occasionally alludes to greatness but never really gets there. The premise is fine – a fictional account of the storytellers who con townsfolk out of their money, and along the way gather stories that will later become famous. The cast is fine – Heath Ledger (The Sin Eater) in fact frequently outdoing Matt Damon (The Bourne Supremacy); Peter Stormare (Constantine) doing a ridiculously over the top Frenchman, and Monica Belluci (The Passion of the Christ) um, looking beautiful. And the effects are decent too – there are a couple of unforgettable moments. But unfortunately the finished product is a giddying hodge-podge of under-utilised ideas and over-enthusiastic special effects crew.
There is a complete lack of anything even resembling a subplot, and in fact the narrative never gets any more detailed than the aforementioned premise. Worse still, the dialogue is mostly banal and at times idiotic, and the vast majority of comedic moments fall horribly flat.
I’d love to be secure in the notion that this is all the studio’s fault, but I don’t really know to be honest. It certainly does feel as if a great deal of the film has been compressed, and the opening scene in particular seemed unfinished and out of place. The dark fairytale world is beautifully realised in a way that only Gilliam films are, and we’re treated to several great action pieces, but it simply doesn’t work.
So how could I possibly recommend this film? Well, the cinematography and production design is pretty, if frequently cluttered; it’s fun to see how the various well-known classic fairytales are woven into the plot, and it also features one of the most interesting and original werewolf transformations I’ve seen in years.
That’s about it really. Gilliam fans like myself will find this radically flawed film to be mildly entertaining but also overwhelmingly disappointing considering what it could have been. Everyone else probably ought to stay clear.Rating: