A ‘Grimm’ bunch of babble
There’s only one difference I’ve found between director Terry Gilliam’s good movies and his bad ones.Mayhem, bizarre accents, more bizarre costumes and, usually, time travel seem to be givens for Gilliam. What distinguishes his better movies from his others seems to be a surface tension that holds all the noise and chaos together and makes the movies palatable. When it’s there, you get something above the omnipresent chatter, such as “Twelve Monkeys.” When it’s not, you get babble like “The Brothers Grimm.”There’s no time travel here, but that might be the only thing missing: “The Brothers Grimm” is a cacophony of words, deeds and ideas that touches on everything from fairy tales to geopolitics. It’s so overstuffed it feels like a breathless sprint through history, myth and folklore. It focuses on German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm (Heath Ledger and Matt Damon, respectively). To the movie’s credit, Damon and Ledger at least look – and act – like siblings. Damon plays Will as the domineering other brother, while Ledger ditches his glam-boy demeanor to play Jake as a marble-mouthed dreamer. A too-quick flashback at the beginning of the movie oversimplifies the dynamic and sets roles for the siblings for the rest of the film: 15 years later, Jacob is still looking for magic beans, and it still makes Will angry because of their overwrought family history.When the story picks up years later, the brothers are freelance exorcists, traveling around Europe during the Age of Enlightenment purging bad spirits from the villages. Their reputation literally precedes them into towns, and the script quickly reveals why: They’re charlatans.Jonathan Pryce and Peter Stormare provide the funny accents this time as French officer Delatombe and his lieutenant Cavaldi. Since they’re representing France after its revolution, they probably symbolize the conflict between superstition and reason, which might have something to do with the plot.Trouble is, I could never tell exactly what they were saying through all the comically overdone accents. All the subtlety – and the point to “The Brothers Grimm” – lies buried under a helter-skelter amalgam of fantasy, comedy, action, twisted fairy tales and Grimm family values.Whether they’re good or bad, Gilliam’s movies don’t seem to suffer from a lack of ideas. And so the problem with “The Brothers Grimm” isn’t that it doesn’t have anything to say, but rather that it has too much, and as a result of it all coming out at once, it sounded a lot like gibberish to me.
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