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|The Brothers Grimm
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Terry Gilliam
scr Ehren Kruger
with Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Lena Headey, Jonathan Pryce, Peter Stormare, Monica Bellucci, Mackenzie Crook, Richard Ridings, Julian Bleach, Bruce McEwen, Tomas Hanak, Laura Greenwood
release US 26.Aug.05, UK 4.Nov.05
05/US Dimension 1h58
Original Bee Gees: Ledger and Damon
Nobody has a visual imagination like Terry Gilliam, so until the plot goes wrong, this is a thoroughly entertaining period romp--vivid characters, outrageous situations and special effects that stand out for their organic originality. So when it begins to wobble, it's a real shame.
Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm (Damon and Ledger) are early 19th century conmen, travelling around French-occupied Germany in response to local myths, which they spice up a bit before saving the day. Caught by a French general (Pryce), they're forced to solve the mysterious abductions of several girls. Working with a local trapper (Headey) and a French thug (Stormare), they head into the woods and discover the legend of a mystical queen (Bellucci). But they're not quite ready to admit that this could really be magic.
Gilliam directs with his usual splendid messiness, combining suspense with comedy and absurdity to make everything just a bit ramshackle, full of life and energy, and utterly wonderful to look at. The overall tone is fairly goofy--Monty Python meets Mel Brooks--but every scene is packed with telling details, observational comedy, witty satire and, of course, references to every Grimm fairy tale. Gilliam's outlandish stunts and sets are enchanting; when he resorts to animation, it snaps us out of the illusion (a CGI wolf is particularly bad). And when Kruger's script runs out of inventive ideas, it sags badly.
As charlatans forced to become real ghostbusters, Damon and Ledger are engaging good fun. While Damon plays it fairly straight (he's the womanising rock star of the two), Ledger goes for quirky silliness (he's the obsessive story-collector). Their winning chemistry holds us even as the story sputters right when it should be coming together. The supporting cast have a great time huffing and puffing.
With a hack director, the gnawing narrative incoherence would be unbearable. But as the plot disintegrates, Gilliam carries on regardless, filling the screen with spells, creatures and old crones, plus moments of wicked comedy that never let us down. In the end, it's not particularly clever or scary, but it looks like a dream.
|Jane Barnett, London: "Having read an article on the film some months ago, was greatly looking forward to a fantastic, in the true sense of the word, if not scary, depiction of these wonderful tales. However, felt greatly disappointed as the farce element and lighthearted script of the film rather dumbed down the otherwise captivating quality of it. I almost gave up before the end. I had expected something more grown-up from one who brought us Twelve Monkeys, which was brilliant." (8.Nov.05)
© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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