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Not being outdoorsy people, my brother and I choose to spend Labor Day in the comfort of a movie theater. Most of the choices were pretty lame (penguins, romantic comedies, or pointless action flicks) so we had no trouble in deciding on The Brothers Grimm for our viewing pleasure. The Brothers Grimm is the latest acid flashback masquerading as a movie from director Terry Gilliam.
In case you were raised by wolves Iíll tell you that Terry Gilliam was the least seen member of Monty Python (and if you donít know who they were then just go kill yourself now because youíll never be any good to anyone.) He mostly stayed behind the scenes to write and do the weird animation for the show, and went on to direct some of the most strange and visually interesting movies of our time.
Everyone up to speed? Good, history lesson over.
Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm are two brothers making a dubious living battling evil in late 18th century French-occupied Germany. Jake (who knew Heath Ledger was really an actor?) is a folklore scholar who firmly believes in the fairy tales that he has studied for so long. Will (played by Matt Damon, who can act, but often chooses not to) is the opportunistic businessman of the pair. They travel the land to rid small, superstitious villages of curses and witches. The simple people donít realize that the evil befalling them is actually a hoax cooked up by the brothers to make a few bucks off of the yokelsí ignorance. They soon find themselves in real trouble when they are apprehended by a French general (Jonathan Pryce basically reprises his role from The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, but heís always a good bad guy) and his sadistic Italian flunky (played by Peter Stormare, who you may remember as the lead nihilist in The Big Lebowski). The French general has been keeping tabs on the brothers for some time, and now wants to send them into a village to stop what are presumed to be similar con artists working there. None of them know that the magic happening there is real until it is too late. Jake and Will have to stop an ancient, evil queen from kidnapping 12 girls so that she can regain her youth and become "the fairest of the all".
The Brothers Grimm is neither as deeply bizarre as Time Bandits nor as whimsical as The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. It balances somewhat precariously between the two extremes, and really never really makes up itsí mind which way it wants to go. Itís a bit uneven and a little slow at times, but the flaws of this movie donít outweigh what was good about it. Gilliam captures the darkness of the original fairy tales nicely, and adds a nice amount of humor to balance it out. And if youíre thinking that the old Brothers Grimm fairy tales werenít dark, and at least a little creepy, then go back and read them again. There is no cuddly Disney crap to be found anywhere, believe me.
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