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The Brothers Grimm (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

TERRY Gilliam has been forced to endure his fair share of Grimm luck when it comes to making movies.

His long-held ambition to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote with Johnny Depp only got as far as a documentary chronicling its failure, in the form of Lost in La Mancha.

While the production of The Brothers Grimm was far from easy, given that the film was dumped by the Weinstein brothers when they fell out with Disney and endured plenty of cast changes and technical difficulties along the way.

As things stand, it's a fairly enjoyable 19th Century romp, far from Gilliam's best work but passably amusing when taken on its own terms.

Matt Damon and Heath Ledger star as the Brothers Grimm of the title, who make a living for themselves by conning peasants out of their money by performing fake exorcisms of mythical legends.

Their scam is uncovered by the occupying French forces, who force them to investigate a real mystery in exchange for their lives.

But the case in question - involving the disappearance of several young girls in a haunted forest - proves far more perilous than they could ever have imagined, not least because they find themselves dealing with supernatural forces beyond their control.

The film works as well as it does for several reasons, the most significant of which is the look. The 19th Century fantasy world that Gilliam creates is both enchanting and sinister in equal measure.

The Grimms-style villages and architecture lend the film an authenticity its special effects can't always match, while the sinister woods are genuinely creepy.

It provides a wonderful backdrop for the actors to work their magic - although in terms of performance, the film is a similarly uneven affair.

Ledger and Damon seem to be having fun and provide an amusing double-act, while Monica Bellucci provides an imposing presence as a sleeping beauty turned wicked witch.

But the likes of Peter Stormare and Jonathan Pryce veer into pantomime-style villainy and are completely over the top with accents that render their characters both difficult to understand and harder to take seriously.

That said, given the difficult history surrounding the making of the film, it's a tribute to Gilliam's persistence and talent as a filmmaker that things have turned out as good as they have (he originally wanted Johnny Depp and Nicole Kidman to star and lost his first-choice director of photography as well).

For while by no means a classic, these fantastical brothers are by no means as Grimm as many were predicting and actually conspire to ensure that Gilliam gets the happy ending his efforts deserve.

Related stories: Matt Damon interview

Heath Ledger interview

Monica Bellucci interview

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