Friday, November 11, 2005

Movie Review: The Brothers Grimm

I don't think it would be unfair to describe ex-Python Terry Gilliam's directorial career as hit and miss. While always full of fantastic images and wonderful ideas his movies don't always deliver a fully satisfying cinematic experience. Sadly, The Brothers Grimm is no different, and perhaps worse.

I have a lot of time for Gilliam's work, which includes Jabberwocky, Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys and a famously failed attempt to film an adaptation of Don Quixote.

From the buzz I'd been getting from The Brothers Grimm I had thought that Gilliam had finally cracked it and made a film that people would actually go and see, and as I took my seat among a packed audience I thought my suspicions had been confirmed.

Sadly, I was wrong, but it's hard to pinpoint why. The characters are great, the actors are all fantastic (check out Heath Ledger doing Alan Partridge for the whole film) and the whole thing is suitably bonkers in traditional Gilliamesque style.'s where it begins to fall's not quite bonkers enough...either that or it's too bonkers. The film is just never sure of the tone it's trying to set. Is it taking itself seriously? Clearly not. Is it totally bonkers. No. The other area in which the film fails is in getting you to engage with the characters. You like them, but you really don't care that much about them. Gilliam fails to put them in any situations of genuine peril, you never truly fear for their lives, and so you will never come anywhere near to the edge of your seat. It's surprising to me that Gilliam, of all directors, fails to fully utilize the underlying feeling of genuine terror in the Grimm fairy tales.

I had hoped that this film would really serve to vindicate Gilliam after the disaster that was Baron Munchausen, but what we seem to have is a Gilliam film that's afraid to a Gilliam film.

That said, there are some lovely touches, I've already mentioned that Heath Ledger seems to be channeling the spirit of Alan Partridge for the whole movie, and Matt Damon is equally at home playing "English." Of course, this is absurd for a movie set in French occupied Germany, but Gilliam is clearly having fun playing with accents in this movie. The children with badly dubbed Newcastle accents recall those dodgy European kid's serials that the BBC used to show in badly dubbed form, like Heidi and that awful one about the kid who lost his laugh. But even this is slightly too subtle and sometimes just makes the film seem badly done, and if you don't get the joke then it could totally ruin the film.

This film could have been brilliant, but it fails in so many areas that I left the cinema feeling totally flat and entirely disappointed. Usually Gilliam's genius more than makes up for the many shortcomings that his films exhibit, but there's just not enough genius here for me to recommend this.

Rating: 5/10

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