Movie Review- The Brothers Grimm (2005)

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Just in time for Halloween, check out this alternate, creepy origin story for some of your favorite fairy tales. The story opens with a young Wilhelm Grimm comforting his mother and ailing sister with the promise that his brother Jacob would return soon after selling the family cow. Jacob (who is erroneously portrayed in the film as the younger brother) brings back a handful of beans rather than the much needed cash.

Heath Ledger and Matt Damon as the Brothers Grimm

Heath Ledger and Matt Damon as the Brothers Grimm

Next, we see the brothers as adults. Wilhelm is played by Matt Damon and Jacob by the late, great Heath Ledger. (Fun fact, they were originally cast in opposite roles because Gilliam wanted Johnny Depp to play Jacob but thought Depp wouldn’t be a big enough box office draw. This was before Pirates of the Caribbean came out, remember.) The city of Karlstadt is in need heroes to fight a witch that is terrorizing their town and the Grimm brothers arrive to save the day. Too bad for the townsfolk that the witch is a hoax and the brothers are scam artists. Jacob has spent his life collecting folk tales, but Wilhelm is an avid skeptic and is only out to make a buck (or Deutschmark, or whatever).

Marbaden village set

Marbaden village set

Soon, the brothers are forcibly recruited by an Italian torturer named Cavaldi (a surprisingly funny character played by Peter Stormare) who is employed by the French. During the Napoleonic Wars, Germany was occupied by French forces, who are led by General Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce) in the movie. He tell the brothers of a town called Marbaden and the 10 children who have disappeared. The peasants believe that the children have been taken by a supernatural force living in the dark forest near their homes, but Delatombe believes it is another con artist like the Grimms. He sends them to expose the fake and help bring in an Age of Reason to the foolish bumpkins.

Angelika from The Brothers Grimm, steampunk movie

Angelika getting her archery on

When they arrive in Marbaden (accompanied by Cavaldi and a cavalcade of French soldiers) they are told that in order to enter the foreboding forest they need a guide. The only person who can help them is “the cursed one,” Angelika (who is a super bad-ass huntswoman played by Lena Headey). They call her this because her father and sisters have all gone missing and let’s face it, probably because she wears pants and hunts with a bow, and this is the beginning of the 19th century after all. Despite the warnings that forest is haunted, they venture inside and learn that the legends of the witch-queen are not only real, they are coming to life.

I am a big fan of Terry Gilliam (who wrote and directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail, among other things) and he definitely does not disappoint in this, his first PG-13 movie. He actually rewrote much of the Brothers Grimm screenplay, but did not receive credit. If you like to be awed by visual effects and have your heart warmed by a good story, check out another Gilliam creation, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009). Like Van Helsing, Brothers Grimm was filmed in the Czech Republic, both on sound stages and on location.

If you are interested in a guide to the various fairy tales in this movie (or are in the mood to add libations to your viewing) you should check out my Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale Guide and Drinking Game post on For Whom The Gear Turns.

Phoebe Darqueling is a globe-trotting writer and artist working in the Steampunk ouevre.

Like my reviews? Check out more cool stuff at my website!

Like my reviews? Check out more cool stuff at my website!

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