A troubled Miramax production that was delayed for about a year, Terry Gilliam's "Brothers Grimm" is another signature Gilliam effort; while flawed and not one of the director's best, it's still an occasionally engaging and very surreal tale. The film stars the interesting pairing of Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as the Brothers of the title, who go around 1700's Germany building fairly elaborate fake scares in order to spook villagers who will call on them to rid their little towns of evil.
However, Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce) catches on to the Grimm game and sends them to solve (or else!) the disappearance of children (including Little Red Riding Hood) in a small village. They're sent along with one of Delatombe's henchmen (Peter Stormare) into the nearby forest which, oddly enough, happens to be actually haunted. Will (Matt Damon) remarks on how impressive the "effects" are and remarks on how whoever's behind it is much better funded than they are.
Their guide, Angelika (Lena Headey) thinks that it's the workings of the evil Mirror Queen (Monica Belluci), who lives in a tower nearby. So, the two con artists have no choice but to try and figure out what to do about an honest-to-goodness supernatural case. The film's odd mix of horror, comedy and drama doesn't always gel together well at all, although even when it's a mess, it's a bizarrely watchable mess: witness one scene where a creepy CG gingerbread man runs through a town and grabs a kid. One wonders what could have been had the screenplay been reworked (and some additional editing been done) in order to try and make more sense of all of the scattered bits and pieces on display here.
The fault here seemingly lies more with Ehren Kruger's screenplay than Gilliam. The script does a fairly weak job of tying the elements together, resulting in a seemingly jumbled mix of tones, bits and the occasional fairy tale reference, such as the trippy gingerbread man moment. It's one of those movies where I eventually gave up on much of it making all that much sense and instead, just appreciated the performances (Ledger and Damon aren't bad) and the usually imaginative oddness (at a reported budget of $80m, "Grimm" has to be the weirdest $80m movie I've ever seen, although one would think that with $80m, the effects could have been a bit better) on display.
"The Brothers Grimm" is certainly not going to be everyone's cup-of-tea. The flick takes chances and, while it fails more often than it succeeds, it fails interestingly, weirdly and in an absolutely over-the-top fashion. Those who have liked Gilliam's past efforts may want to try this one out as a rental.
VIDEO: "Brothers Grimm" is presented by Miramax in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. While not without some flaws, the presentation is mostly very nice looking. Sharpness and detail were slightly inconsistent, with some of the more low-lit scenes looking somewhat softer than the brighter exteriors.
The presentation does suffer from a few brief (but not distracting) concerns, as edge enhancement appears in a few scenes, as do a few minor artifacts. No print flaws, shimmering or other problems were seen. The film's murky color palette was not exactly easy on the eyes, but appeared accurately rendered on this effort.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and offers a pretty enjoyable audio presentation. Surrounds kick in throughout the feature, offering a wealth of ambience and creepy effects. Sounds are positioned nicely around the room, and the overall presentation is pretty enveloping. While the audio isn't as over-the-top as the movie itself, it makes for a pretty enjoyable time. Audio quality is fine, as effects, score and dialogue seemed crisp and well-recorded.
EXTRAS: Director Terry Gilliam offers an audio commentary for the feature. Gilliam's track is quite interesting, as the director goes into just about every aspect of the production, discussing casting issues, shooting on location, the Grimm tales, effects and other elements. As with his prior tracks, Gilliam is insightful and occasionally funny. We also get 2 "making of" documentaries ("Bringing the Fairytale to Life" and "The Visual Magic of the Brothers Grimm") and 15 minutes of deleted scenes with commentary from Gilliam.
Final Thoughts: "Brothers Grimm" could have used some screenplay revisions and/or more editing work, but even when it misses the mark, it does so in interesting, chaotic ways. The performances from Ledger and Damon also help at least hold the film together somewhat. The DVD from Miramax offers fine audio/video quality and a nice selection of supplements. I wouldn't recommend a purchase, but Gilliam fans may want to try a rental.