Friday, January 13, 2006

DVD Review: The Brothers Grimm

Terry Gilliam is a clever, intelligent guy who probably has a little too much faith in his own cleverness. Even the best of his movies have a streak of self-indulgence that would be insufferable if it weren’t for the brilliant storytelling and quirky sense of humor.

Which is a long way to go to get to this: boy was this a bad movie. Gilliam’s self-indulgence was left naked by a movie that wasn’t half as clever or well-executed as, say, the surprisingly touching The Fisher King or the dark brilliance of Brazil, to say nothing of Time Bandits. Those movies, despite their flaws, remain compelling and fresh.

Put it this way, people don’t like Kevin Smith’s Clerks because of its great production values and brilliant acting. Which is good, because it doesn’t have those things in its corner. They liked it because the dialog was witty and it had a lively feel and great characters. Gilliam movies are sort of similar--the production is usually a little better, the acting is often good, but it’s the new ideas and the sense of adventure that take fans through the uneven special effects, the slower moments, and the occasionally overly self-aware script moments.

The Brothers Grimm, though is all the bad with not nearly enough of the good. The set-up isn’t bad. Two brothers named Grimm--a pair of con artists who prey on the superstitions of 19th century German villagers--stage hauntings and curses and charge the villagers to get rid of ghosts and witches that don’t exist. Predictably, after some rather bland plot manipulation, the brothers find themselves involved with a real live, real scary fairy tale occurrence.

With that as the backdrop, Gilliam gives us tiny snippets of familiar fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, little red riding hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and others. Sadly, those snippets are thrown into a much of a story in such a way that they don’t all make much sense, seeming like leftover thoughts tossed into the mix for no particularly good reason. It’s messy without having anything like a sense of fun or wonder.

The special effects range from merely okay to utterly horrid, which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the boring story. It’s a sad day when a Terry Gilliam movie feels tepid and uninspired, but that’s exactly the case with The Brothers Grimm.

At least the acting was good and the scenery was pretty--but, of course, that’s not nearly a good enough reason to suggest seeing this.

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