Outlook: Grim

Columbus Alive | August 25, 2005
Terry Gilliam is a notoriously demanding filmmaker, as audiences got to see firsthand in the fascinating documentary about his failed Don Quixote project, Lost in La Mancha. His cinematic visions are exacting and detailed, and usually expensive, so the recent complaints from Gilliam that Miramax compromised his creative autonomy on The Brothers Grimm to save money aren’t exactly shocking. It is surprising how heavy, if not smothering, a sense of compromise is felt throughout the picture.

In the screenplay by Ehren Kruger (Skeleton Key), Will (Matt Damon) and Jake (Heath Ledger) Grimm earn their fame and fortune as supernatural grifters, traveling to small, supposedly cursed villages and duping villagers into believing they chase away the demons. Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce), the leader of France’s occupying force in Germany, summons the men to deal with reports of children disappearing in the forests of Marbaden, or face execution if they fail.

Of course, this village is really cursed. Despite Will’s skepticism and Jake’s fear, they tackle the forest’s spirits with the assistance of proto-feminist huntress Angelika (Lena Headey), whose whole family has been lost to the woods.

Favorite story and design elements of the filmmaker are found in the film’s authentic period flavor, some absurd humor (a running joke about the Germans tormenting the French with bad food is pure Monty Python) and the tons of dirt and grime applied to sets and cast. It’s clear, however, that special effects were created on the cheap. More troubling is Kruger’s half-baked script.

The writer, who’s getting way too much work lately for so little apparent inspiration (he’s credited with five films this year), folds Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel and a few other fairy tales into the cursed forest. It’s sort of clever, but mostly nothing more (only the story of Jake and the magic beans has weight). His initial exposition is leaden, and as the story progresses chaos ultimately stands in for comedy and suspense. For the audience, the movie becomes not about enchantment, but endurance.

Columbus Alive

Founded in 1983, Alive is the Capital City's oldest and only independent alternative and is known for providing a forum for the area's free thinkers. The paper's spirited and original perspective on music, arts and culture distinguish it from the...
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