Starring Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Jonathan Pryce, Peter Stormare, Lena Headey, and Monica Bellucci
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Released by Dimension Home Video
Fairy tales. Things weren’t always so sweet and sanitized. In the original tales written by the Brothers Grimm, rarely did anyone live happily ever after. In fact, rarely did anyone live at all. The anticipation for a film that explored the darker side of the bedtime story had me sweaty, and with the likes of Terry Gilliam at the helm, what could go wrong?
Sadly — a lot. Though beautifully filmed, The Brothers Grimm can at times play rather lifelessly. The biggest villain in the film is not any of the wonderfully painted characters of the Grimms’ original body of work. It’s the usage of way overblown CGI. When a film becomes a borderline cartoon, there’s an obvious problem. CGI can work when millions and millions have been spent on it. Even though the film itself sported a rather hefty $80,000,000.00 budget, things still come off looking horrendously fake.
For instance during the werewolf sequence, it’s nearly impossible to gain a sense of dread when the character is reacting to something that is clearly not there. This serves to take you out of the film rather than draw you in. Can you imagine the type of werewolf KNB Effects could create with access to a budget like that?! There are some animatronics to be found here and there, but they were mainly used for close-ups, etc. Call me old fashioned, but I’ll take a guy in a suit over an animated sprite any day of the week. I wish I could say that these cartoonish instances were limited to the wolf scene, but they were not. They run rampant.
It’s hard to believe that my main gripe with this film about fairy tales is that there’s not enough realism in it. There are some shining spots though. Damon and Ledger’s performances as the brothers are spot on, but the real star of this show is Peter Stormare. Stormare walks the fine line between scene stealing and scene chewing like few other character actors these days. When he’s on the screen, he’s as magical as anything else created by Gilliam’s very vivid imagination. Also, the sets themselves can be breathtaking. If there is one thing that Gilliam is exceptional at, it’s creating a world for his characters to populate. He is meticulous in his detail, and the love for what he does shines through in every frame of film. I just wish he wouldn’t have had access to so many new technical toys such as the aforementioned lame CGI. In some instances the film has more of a “Let’s see if we can do that” feel to it instead of a polished one. The physical effects do salvage things a slight bit. Monica Bellucci’s portrayal of the Mirror Queen in particular is both chilling and menacing, the main reason being that she is onscreen acting, not lending her voice to a computer rendering of her character. I know it seems as if I’m beating a dead horse here, so I’ll just move on to the DVD special features.
Dimension Home Video once again has a bevy of goodies to offer fans that can take us into the movie and beyond. However, things feel a bit condensed. Something tells me that if this film ended up being the box office success that they had hoped for, we’d be seeing a double-disc release fuller than Little Red Riding Hood’s basket for Grandma. What we have here are the usual cast and crew interviews during the making of special, some great deleted scenes with director commentary that were omitted for some fairly good reasons, and a look at the special effects. *cough* bad CGI *cough* The shining star on the disc is Gilliam’s commentary track. Like the film or not, this man has vigor, vision, and one hell of an imagination. It’s hard not to let some of the The Brothers Grimm‘s shortcomings slide after listening.
All in all the DVD itself is a solid package, and for fans of Gilliam it certainly warrants a purchase. Early on in one of the extras it is stressed that this story is not a biographical film about the famous German writing duo. It’s meant to be an homage to their plentiful tales and the spirit of their work. The problem with this film is that their work was much darker than it is depicted by Gilliam; therefore, true to the spirit it is not. Maybe next time around someone will turn up the heat in that old witch’s oven and give fans the crispy little tale that they would like to see spun.
Commentary by director Terry Gilliam
Deleted scenes with optional commentary
Bringing the Fairy Tale to Life featurette
The Visual Magic of The Brothers Grimm featurette
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