The Brothers Grimm

Swarms of flies, a pair of decapitated heads, entombed children and one very nasty gingerbread man — writer-director-fantasist Terry Gilliam's take on the Brothers Grimm isn't exactly kid-friendly, but then, neither are the gore-and-doom-laden versions of classic folk stories that made "Grimm" synonymous with "Fairy Tales." Gilliam simply uses the tropes...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Swarms of flies, a pair of decapitated heads, entombed children and one very nasty gingerbread man — writer-director-fantasist Terry Gilliam's take on the Brothers Grimm isn't exactly kid-friendly, but then, neither are the gore-and-doom-laden versions of classic folk stories that made "Grimm" synonymous with "Fairy Tales." Gilliam simply uses the tropes of the tales themselves to construct a darkly whimsical spin on GHOSTBUSTERS (1984). Prussia, 1812: Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm (Matt Damon, Heath Ledger) can't do much about the Napoleonic invaders occupying most of their country, but if there's a witch terrorizing your village, they're the men to call. So what if they don't actually exorcise anything: Thanks to their underpaid stunt men (Mackenzie Crook, Richard Ridings) and a wide array of clever special effects, the Brothers Grimm put on a good show and set superstitious villagers' minds at ease — for a price. As they move from burgh to burgh, Jacob compiles the strange local tales in his notebooks and, deep in his heart, hopes at least some are true. If they were, perhaps he'd be able to shake the enormous guilt he's carried since childhood, when he bought a handful of cure-all "magic" beans instead of the medicine his dying sister desperately needed. When Jacob and Wilhelm are suddenly arrested by French soldiers and charged with "subterfuge, theft and humbuggery," they're given a choice: Face their executioners or use their trickery to unmask the villain prowling the woods around the small village of Marbaden. Nine girls, including Greta (Denisa Vokurkova), sister of Hans, and that poor little lass in the bright-red riding hood (Alena Jakobova), have vanished. Enlightened Wilhelm thinks there's a perfectly rational explanation — and it's probably French — but Jacob the romantic is inclined to believe their comely forest guide, Angelika (Lena Headey), who lost both her sisters and her father to the forest and believes encroaching Christianity has turned the once happily pagan wood malignant. The current evil, she thinks, is rooted in a tale her father told — the one about the wicked queen (Monica Bellucci) who, once upon a time, retreated to a tall tower and combed her long, raven hair while plague ravaged her subjects. Like the criminally overlooked SNOW WHITE: A TALE OF TERROR (1997), Gilliam's film is really a horror movie, albeit a lighthearted one, and as such sticks close to the dark heart of the folktales designed to instruct by scaring the lederhosen off the young 'uns. It's also a feast for the eyes, and often very funny. Damon, an underrated comic actor, is particularly good as an ultra-rationalist who'll scream like a girl and run from anything he can't immediately explain.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Swarms of flies, a pair of decapitated heads, entombed children and one very nasty gingerbread man — writer-director-fantasist Terry Gilliam's take on the Brothers Grimm isn't exactly kid-friendly, but then, neither are the gore-and-doom-laden versions of… (more)

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