Created by David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf
Distributed by Universal Studios Home Entertainment
It’s strange how imitative the genre (and indeed, all of cinema and television) can be at times. When a strong idea hits, it often brings with it a host of imitators that attempt to mine the same popularity it’s assumed the initial volley will have (or has already had). Maybe it’ll be hostile aliens one year, dangerous volcanoes the next. Zombies this moment, vampires shortly thereafter. Werewolves and torture porn and found footage (oh my)!
Last year it appeared as though the newest fad would be fairy tales. That’s right, some ten years after Bill Willingham’s kickass comic book Fables first hit stands, we finally have a resurgence in fairy-tale-centric properties. Upcoming projects include big-budget features such as Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Maleficent, and Jack the Giant Killer. And over the course of this past year, we’ve had two takes on Snow White (more, if you count direct-to-DVD offerings) and two television shows that mined the same essential idea as Willingham’s – fairy tale creatures in contemporary settings. One is “Once Upon a Time” (unseen by this reviewer), and the other is a surprisingly fun little supernatural police procedural called “Grimm”.
Set in Portland, Oregon, “Grimm” opens with young detective Nick Burkhardt (Giuntoli) getting a visit from his aunt/adoptive mother, who has an urgent message to pass along: Nick, along with his aunt and the rest of their bloodline, is a Grimm – a person tasked with hunting and killing dangerous creatures that were once the basis of the fairy tales put to paper by, well, The Brothers Grimm and others. The Grimms have the ability to see the creatures through the human veneer they wear (think They Live, sans sunglasses) and must ensure that the creatures do no harm to human beings. Burkhardt is understandably dubious about this entire revelation, until his aunt is attacked and nearly killed by one such creature before his very eyes.
Before long Burkhardt inherits all of his creature-slaying aunt’s knowledge and resources (in the form of a travel trailer packed with books and weaponry) and sets out to use his newfound abilities to keep his city safe from the throngs of fairy tale monsters that live there (seriously, over the course of the show, we discover that Portland’s population must be, like, 85% creatures). During his adventures he gets a little help from his unwitting partner, Hank (Hornsby); oblivious girlfriend, Juliette (Tulloch); and Monroe (Mitchell), a Portland resident who also happens to be a Blutbad (think “Big Bad Wolf”), who teaches Nick not only the finer details of creature hunting but also that not all non-humans are necessarily evil.
Heralded as being from the executive producers who brought us “Buffy” and “Angel”, “Grimm” is sadly nowhere near as good as either of those shows, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely without charm. Though it’s essentially just a monster-of-the-week (note that the end of Season One does bring in some mythology that looks to carry over into Season Two), it’s a mostly well written and well produced show that’s quite entertaining. The actors are all solid, the characters endearing, the action plentiful and the creature designs quite good (even if the kickass practical makeups are often marred by dodgy CG morphing). Perhaps the biggest draw of the series is its ability to blend the fairy tale aspects into what is essentially a police procedural , often detailing the stress our lead undergoes in attempting to solve supernatural cases as not only a cop but a monster hunter as well (all while trying to keep these aspects of his life separate).
If only the concept of the show had been a little more finely tuned, the first season might have been a good deal stronger (and easier to recommend). Though the main idea is intriguing, little is done for the first half of the season to make Burkhardt an active protagonist. He finds out that he is descended from a long line of monster hunters…and then he just kinda lets this revelation go until he needs to draw upon that knowledge to solve cases that are more supernatural in nature. He’s initially given an important artifact in the form of a key (that also seems to be the reason his aunt was attacked in the first place)…and then he doesn’t bother researching it until the final quarter of the season. Having a passive hero for such a long stretch of a show’s inaugural season should be crippling, but lead actor Giuntoli is likable enough in the role that we forgive him for being so damned bland throughout the first several episodes (eventually the character becomes far more proactive – and interesting as a result).
Speaking of likable actors, “Grimm”’s greatest strength is its cast. Every main cast member puts in great work, carving out distinctive characters from tried-and-true archetypes in what could have easily been a very trite series. The show has pretty great taste in guest stars as well, with each episode usually eliciting an “Oh, wow” from this reviewer, depending on that ep’s villain (or victim) of the week.
Universal Home Entertainment has put together a pretty great package for this series, indicating that they are throwing their full support behind it in the hopes that it will last a while (indeed, Season Two starts up on August 13th). The image is generally razor sharp, full of either vibrant colors or inky blacks, depending on each scene’s setting. The audio is generally quite punchy, too, with some of the gunshots and creature roars likely to jolt you out of your seat.
A nice set of bonus features has been put together for this release as well. We get a three-minute gag reel, which is about as funny as most gag reels (that is to say, it’s not very funny at all). There is an eleven-minute featurette titled The World of Grimm, which is a good if brief overview of the show’s inception and concept. Grimm: Making Monsters is a six-minute look at the show’s various creature effects, while the VFX Progressions featurette shows step-by-step breakdowns of “Grimm”’s CG character transformations throughout the show.
Wrapping things up are a set of audition tapes (with each of the five main leads) and three highlight reels featuring themed montages of certain aspects of the show (“Scares”, “Morphs”, and “The Language of Grimm”). In addition to all of that, there is the option to view deleted scenes for most of the episodes throughout the season. Overall it’s a pretty decent set of special features.
If you’re a sucker for shows like “Buffy”, “Angel”, “Supernatural”, and the like, you might want to give “Grimm” a shot. While it’s not quite at the level of those shows yet, it shows promise and is still quite a bit of fun in its own right. Here’s hoping you enjoy!
3 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5