September 1, 2005
Brothers Grimm (PG-13)
by Amy Diaz
Matt Damon decides to
see how the Affleck half lives and makes The Brothers Grimm, a movie
devoid of merit and generally wearying of the soul.
Poor Ben Affleck —
tall, handsome, affable but not tremendously skilled as an actor.
Mostly, he just looks so damn happy to have gotten work. Sometimes this
is enough to make his movies enjoyable (Shakespeare in Love, most Kevin
Smith movies) but usually it is not (Gigli, anything with Sandra
Damon, on the other
hand, has managed to have a fairly good career for a short man with a
relatively slight build. Yet perhaps he should have read a little more
closely that contract the Mattfleck duo signed with the devil to get
that Oscar. Perhaps then Damon would have seen that his success would
include the occasional The Brothers Grimm.
On the other hand, take
away the whole “brothers” conceit and you have a fairly decent gay love
story between Wilhelm (Damon) and Jacob (Heath Ledger) Grimm, brothers
who claim to fight ghosts, witches and other enchantments. Along with
some prop guys they’ve hired to play the trolls and goblins, the Grimms
travel the French and German countryside of the late 18th century and
look for suckers. Though they are a loving couple, there is
dissatisfaction. Jacob is a mover and shaker who enjoys the fame of fake
ghostbusting but Wilhelm is a moodier lad who wants them to settle down
into a house in the Napoleon-occupied suburbs where he can concentrate
on his writing.
But fate takes a hand
and the brothers’ fraud is uncovered by a French officer named Delatombe
(Jonathan Pryce, who clearly has some sort of drug habit / gambling
addiction / summer remodeling project he has to fund). Delatombe gives
them a choice: death or working for the French. After seriously weighing
those options (after all, the French), the brothers decide to work for
Delatombe and are given the taste of unmasking fellow charlatans. They
are sent to a German town where the folk believe their daughters have
been kidnapped by the mischievous fairy-things in the nearby woods.
The movie gives our
boys a nominal love interest, Angelika (Lena Headey), but even the story
can’t decide which one likes her / which one she likes. So, it keeps
Ledger and Damon together and with eyes only for each other — though
perhaps all those longing looks are really just puzzlement over what
happened to each other’s hair. Ledger’s hair is close cropped and, from
his hair to his skin, he is a pasty blur — a grayish, yellowish smudge.
Damon has something that looks like the Barbie Makeover Styling Head
with a bad page boy from an impatient 7-year-old, a page boy with
Even with the bad hair
and the odd romantic undertones between “brothers,” The Brothers Grimm
might have succeeded were it not so screechy and joyless. Though camp is
clearly the direction the subject matter wants to go, director Terry
Gilliam and the gang do not let the flick run loose. Instead, they seem
to try to ramp up excitement by ramping up volume — half the lines in
the movie feel shouted. The fun elements — Jacob’s huckster-ish nature,
the ways they use superstition to scam the yokels, the name-dropping of
the brothers’ most famous stories — aren’t allowed to fully develop.
Like petals from a daisy, these rare moments of cleverness fall away,
leaving us with a field full of graying story-stems.
The most disappointing
aspect of The Brothers Grimm is that a better movie was clearly there,
under all the forced physical comedy or the weird, unnecessary
Grimm-on-Grimm arguments. Somewhere fairy tale conventions and
anachronistic dialog combine to create a cheesy but tasty late-summer
treat. Sadly, that place just isn’t on our side of the looking glass.