The most recent version of "The Brothers Grimm" is not a ground-breaking film in the usual sense, but its twists and variations make it a refreshing endeavor that outstrips others which are of a more sensationalistic nature. Written by Ehren Kruger and directed Terry Gilliam, many of the known tales are spliced together, given visual nods outside their traditional shapes or expressed in ways that clearly bear Gilliam's fingerprints. The former Monty Python animator has grown over time in subtle ways, becoming perhaps a bit less flashy, yet more solid. The pacing of the film is slow and steady, becoming increasingly lively as it progresses towards a killer finish, despite a slightly treacly final scene. Even so, that's the logical place to stop and doesn't detract from the overall effort. The obvious maturation of his handling over time since films such as Time Bandits and Brazil is a real pleasure to see. This could be partially due to the nature of this particular film!
, true enough, but the resulting classy air defies any real argument over such a point. Its just plain good.
Matt Damon and Heath Ledger head a cast of gratifying skill that includes the venerable Jonathan Pryce. While a tale set in 18th-century Germany has obvious paths that lend themselves to being overplayed, people handle their roles with real style that is lively without becoming slapstick past a minimal point. The special effects are well-placed and offered in a slick manner one would expect from CGI as we have come to know it, yet it almost feels as if the actual Grimms had assembled it, being even-handed rather than leaping into your face Star-Wars-style before the denoument calls for it. When the effects appear, they're slam-bang in a way that makes the grade with class.
The relationship between the brothers bears a gratifying resemblance to the best 'buddy' films. The blend of affection and frustration is easily recognizable to anyone with a sibling. Damon and Ledger find their way through a certain comic timing that really rings the proverbial bell and leads to many silly-grin moments. IMBD says "Will and Jake Grimm are travelling con-artists who encounter a genuine fairy-tale curse which requires genuine courage instead of their usual bogus exorcisms." The way they ply the rubes and skate the thin edge of being found out is played like a well-tuned fiddle. It makes you feel nervous while you laugh. That is a quality often sought in such ventures, but rarely acheived with such panache.
There is also quite a bit of spitting. Yes, spitting. Everyone but the animals spit and I may have simply missed even that happening. Everything is incredibly filthy, as befits the historical setting. The muddy village that sets the scene for the final section is a wonderland of slops, including a creature whose nature I won't reveal. It would spoil part of the surprise and words could not do it proper justice.
It is also the case that the set designers, makeup artists and costumers did a superior job, in that their work does not announce itself annoyingly, but sets a tone one could call stagey in the nature of its support. For example, stage makeup is a different discipline from that meant for film, being meant for viewing from the distance of an audience seated in a traditional theatre proper, yet the effect seems similar and familiar here. The composite small touches make for a classy whole.
The Brothers Grimm is not a film that makes a splash in the same manner as flashier epics of greater renown, but when taken flat-footed for what it really is, it can be honestly said that it is a full cinematic meal with great desserts served at sinful intervals, all along the way. One should be wary of showing it to small children, as it is dark and violent, as befits the trappings of the tale, but is it FUN? You bet it is. Solidly recommended.