Anyway, on Thursday night I saw The Brothers Grimm with laviorli and renny1780. It's hard to gauge their opinions of the movie (generally positive, I think), but I really enjoyed it. The critics aren't being kind to the movie, and I think I understand why. The filmmaking is very weird. The style felt manic and jumpy for the first half hour, as if a lot of material was cut. I guess this is possible, but it's more likely that I warmed to it after half an hour.
Either way, The Brothers Grimm is more a technical triumph than anything else. Terry Gilliam works with practical effects better than, well, just about anybody (possibly excepting Peter Jackson). The film is full of gorgeous, lengthy shots which must have been murder to set up, but which pay off in the most subtle ways. That's really what Gilliam strives for, I think. Most of his work is full of tremendous special effects which are tossed off as set-dressing and atmosphere. The nature of his work usually demands some kind of good vs. evil standoff, and these are usually spectacular effects affairs, but he usually doesn't want us to dwell on his effects. They set the atmosphere, not the focus.
Anyway, that's what's good about The Brothers Grimm. What's bad about it -- or what could be bad -- is the plot, which focuses on Willhelm and Jacob Grimm. In real life, the Brothers Grimm collected and recorded folktales during a time when they thought the oral tradition was dying. This film remolds them as two early-19th century ghostbusters (read: con artists) who are peddling their services around a superstitious, French-occupied Germany where everybody has an English accent. When the French general finds them out, he sends them to a small village where little girls are falling victim to a forest that might just be enchanted...
That's the short summary. I was fine with the plot, but then again, I like Terry Gilliam. I like the way he gets more interested in the characters and his own little tangents than his audience might be. I like the way most of his films defy genre classification. I like the way he meanders at his own speed and does his own thing. Some might see this as a very messy, undisciplined way to make films, and I would too except that it works for me. I really like Jabberwocky, which is widely regarded by Gilliam's fans as his least watchable film, so maybe I enjoyed this movie more as a fan than as a moviegoer. That's probably the best litmus test of whether it's worth your $8.50: Did you enjoy Time Bandits? Brazil? The Adventures of Baron Munchausen? How 'bout The Fisher King? Twelve Monkeys? Fear and Loathing? Jabberwocky?
Uh, anyway, acting, soundtrack, blah blah blah, all great. Heath Ledger and Matt Damon are sort of cast as the opposites of the roles they usually play, and I can't decide whether that was a good idea or not, but at least it worked. Jonathan Pryce is fantastic as the cooly despicable French general Delatombe. Peter Stormare plays Cavaldi, an Italian-turned-Frenchman who is sent by Delatombe to keep an eye on the Brothers. He's very good, but it's a heavily over-done kind of good, which is funny, but runs the risk of turning off the audience. Monica Bellucci as The Mirror Queen is sexy and scary, and I guess that's what we needed from her. Lena Headey plays Angelika, the female lead. She's sexy and weird. The music was scored by Italian composer Dario Marianelli, whom I'm not familiar with. The music is heavy, dark, and doesn't sound even marginally like the usual stuff out of Hollywood. I love Danny Elfman, but Marianelli's score comes way out of left field and it's incredible.
Oh, there's also a lot of animal abuse. Like, more than in an original trilogy Star Wars movie, and that's sayin' somethin'.
Anyway, I need to go to bed. The bottom line is that Terry Gilliam fans will almost certainly get more out of this than, say, the Tim Burton fans who are only seeing it because it looks a little like Sleepy Hollow (they do exist, and they're giving The Brothers Grimm bad reviews on IMDB). It's not a bad movie, but even if you like it you'll see why some people don't. Once you've seen it, check out the interviews with Mr. Gilliam on the official movie site, which go a long way toward explaining some of the stranger creative choices in the production.