Fans of the cult British comedy team Monty Python would know right off the bat who Terry Gilliam
is. Probably best known for his role as the coconut-clunking sidekick Patsy in the 1975 film
Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Gilliam has gone on to direct a handful of movies,
with his most recent being The Brothers Grimm. This tale is an especially creative one,
taking a fictional look at the lives of Willhelm and Jacob Grimm, the famous fairy tale authors.
The film follows the brothers as fake witch and monster hunters who are thrown into what is soon
revealed as a real life fairy tale.
The film's mixture of silly humor and fantasy/horror elements
feels like a hybrid of The Mummy (1999) and Van Helsing (both Stephen
Sommers-directed films), but may be even more light-hearted than both. In fact, silly may be the
best word to describe much of The Brothers Grimm, and it's an acquired taste indeed. Knowing
the mood of the film ahead of time helps prepare the viewer, but the unknowing is likely to be taken
by surprise. The Brothers Grimm is a mixed bag at best. While the relationship between the brothers,
wonderfully played by Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, starts out almost slapstick, Gilliam does well
in fleshing out their close bond and how they react when a woman enters their lives. But the film
is just as much a comedy as it is a fantasy, adventure, and a monster movie. And the film works well
as each. The humor, although often more silly than witty, works to relieve the terror some sequences
offer. For example, while a late night ride through the enchanted forest proves deadly for some characters,
the film is quick to offer comic relief from the brothers or an Italian torture specialist who
works for the French and masquerades as a German named Cavaldi (played by the always-a-pleasure Peter
Heath Ledger steps into what is probably one of his most unique roles to date. Throwing away any of
his tough guy image, Ledger plays Jacob Grimm as a bumbling, sensitive, and self-conscious character
that is fantastic to watch and funny in and of itself, considering Ledger's usual roles (even
in A Knight's Tale or The Four Feathers). Damon's character isn't quite as drastic a departure,
but is still a great fit for him as Will is sort of a naive but more stable compliment to his brother.
Besides the solid chemistry between Ledger and Damon, the real charm of The Brothers Grimm is
its creativity. The story revolves around a group of missing children with many familiar characters from
the Grimms stories worked into it. For example, Little Red Riding Hood is represented by a missing girl
who wore a "little red riding cape," Hansel and Gretel (who are aware of the infamous tale of the gingerbread
house) are referred to as Hans and Greta, while we even get introduced to The Gingerbread Man, the
Big Bad Wolf, and a villain who serves as a compilation of fairy tale characters.
But for the folks thinking the equation "adventure + fantasy + children + fairy tales = family film,"
you'll have to be warned that The Brothers Grimm is hardly a film for the family. If anything, the
violence in the movie is its biggest problem. In a couple tense sequences, the results are... well...
rather grim. When the brothers and some French soldiers accompanying them are attacked in the enchanted
forest, we see a man get pulled into a tree and one of its roots suddenly shoot from his mouth (killing him). A body also falls from a tree to reveal that from the waist down has
been eaten and only bones remain. Jacob and Will walk into Angelika's cabin to ask her
for her help and watch her graphically skin a dead rabbit. We see the whole act from in front of her
and behind the rabbit (with it very much in the foreground), and we hear the gutting more than actually
seeing it. Also, as a random act of humor, a small kitten is accidentally
killed when hit by a spinning torture blade and we see some guts fly across the room (with a drop
landing on Delatombe's face, which he then tastes). Finally, we see two decapitated heads pulled from
barrels after those they belonged to had been executed (not seen). In addition to those moments, there
are plenty of creepy and potentially frightening moments that include a horse swallowing a child alive
(but doesn't kill it), and a blob of mud causing a child's face to literally wipe off. While the list of violence
continues, it just doesn't seem necessary to have such content in this kind of story. It takes what
could have been a fun family film and makes the audience more exclusively adult (if that).
Violence aside, the last thing to note is the film's visuals. The sets used in the film are breathtaking
and work wonderfully to the advantage of the film. The special effects vary from somewhat cheesy, and too
obviously CGI, to quite effectively realistic. The settings definitely help add to the believability of the story.
In the end, I have to admit I enjoyed The Brothers Grimm. The humor is an acquired taste,
but I found it worked well for this kind of a film. The characters were strong, albeit over-the-top at times,
and the story creative and interesting enough to be worth the watch. Due to the violence and potentially
terrifying elements, the kids should definitely be left at home (which is a shame, because it is an
otherwise fun adventure film). If you have any questions or comments about the film before you see it (if you
decide to), feel free to
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 9/1/05)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: Will takes two girls
upstairs at a tavern and we see them asleep in bed together in their pajamas; The queen's dress
shows some cleavage at times; The queen tries to seduce Jake in her mirrored reflection as
a beautiful woman (while in reality, she's just a mummified body across the room). She caresses
him (nothing explicit) and asks him if he desires Angelika.
Vulgarity/Language: 1 "s" word,
2 "d*mn," 1 "Chr-st," 5 "G-d"
Alcohol/Drugs: Jacob gets drunk
in a tavern and we see many other characters drinking there as well. People have wine at a fancy
dinner. Delatombe drinks wine.
Blood/Gore: We see a scary-looking
witch that looks like a decomposing corpse (that turns out to be fake);
Jacob and Will walk into Angelika's cabin to ask her for her help and watch graphically skin a
dead rabbit (and are grossed out by the sight). We see the whole act from in front of her and
behind the rabbit (with it very much in the foreground), and we hear the gutting more than actually
seeing it; Although neither bloody nor gory, we see a horse is fed spiders which drive him mad. It
then emits a web that wraps around a child and we see the shadow of the animal as it pulls the child
into its mouth and swallows it. We then see a shot of the horse running with an enlarged belly,
and when it opens its mouth, we see the child's head (it's still alive) in the horse's throat;
When the brothers and some French soldiers are attacked in the enchanted
forest, we see the root from one of the trees pull a man into a tree, and a root suddenly shoot
through his mouth from inside of his body (killing him); A body falls from a tree to reveal that from the waist down has
been eaten and only bones and some possible flesh remain; Cavaldi has some blood on his head;
A small kitten is accidentally killed when kicked by a startled Cavaldi into a spinning torture blade
that reduces the kitten to meat, sending some guts flying, with a drop
landing on Delatombe's face across the room, which he then tastes; A child fetches a pail of water,
and in the process rescues a crow that had fallen into a well. It springs back to life and flings mud
onto the child. When it stands to wipe off the mud, the child's facial features are wiped off as well
and we see their blank face (they try to scream but it has no mouth). We then see an eyeball in the
mud and a blob forms, taking the eyes as well as a nose and mouth for its own;
We see a wolfman prick the finger of a person and draw some blood from it;
Jake finds a corpse of the queen in the tower which appears mummified and wrinkled with really
long finger nails (we see the corpse many times); We see two decapitated heads pulled from barrels
after those they belonged to had been executed (not seen); Although not bloody, a character
is hit with an axe that we see briefly sticking from their back; We also see a person impaled by
a staff and hear the sounds of the impact, but there is no blood or anything graphic shown;
A large knife is driven into a person's chest and we see the bloody stain on their shirt afterwards;
We see what appears to be some sort of large tack pulled from one character's chest (with some blood
seen on it) and driven into another's chest; Jake shatters the queen's mirror which causes her to
crack and shatter much like the mirror, with shards of her falling off. Her hands are bloody from
trying to pick up the pieces. We also see blood covering Will's hands from trying to pick up the shards;
We see some blood on the end of the tack after its been pulled from a person's chest.
Violence: Some slapstick violence
and much fantasy-related violence, including some hand-to-hand fighting (some resolving in death),
etc. See "Blood/Gore" above.
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most
reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content (with a few exceptions). However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.