The Brothers Grimm

on August 26, 2005 by Christine James
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It's readily apparent why Terry Gilliam's "Brothers Grimm," filmed in 2003, has been bumped down the release schedule so many times. What's puzzling is why it wasn't shelved altogether, or better still, buried in a mirror-lined coffin, a procedure the protagonists recommend for particularly foul and blighted entities.

An "Army of Darkness"-type comedy/horror take on classic fairytales, directed by the Python who brought us "Time Bandits," "Brazil," "The Fisher King" and "12 Monkeys," should have been a masterpiece of the genre. But it's a fine line between cult classic and unwatchable bomb.

Things start out promisingly as screen hunks Matt Damon and Heath Ledger assay the roles of Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, fictionalized versions of the 18th-century storytellers (part of the fiction apparently being that they have British accents despite repeatedly acknowledging that they're from Kassel, Germany.) Prior to their fable-scribing, the film posits, they were traveling charlatans who would pass themselves off as antediluvian ghostbusters, bilking entire villages with their scam. When they happen upon a real supernatural curse that's threatening a town's children, their mettle is tested. But rather than any character or backbone being forged, it seems they mostly fumble their way to a happy ending. The opportunity to use their MacGyverish con talents for good instead of evil is squandered, and the few potential skin-crawling thrills are deflated by a wildly vacillating tone: Black comedy, romance, adventure, fantasy and horror all get short shrift, even as they're pitched toward the extreme. Prospects are eponymous for this abrasively unlikable mess whose only merits are the premise and Gilliam's trademark inspired visuals. Starring Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Peter Stormare, Lena Headey and Monica Bellucci. Directed by Terry Gilliam. Written by Ehren Krueger. Produced by Charles Roven and Daniel Bobker. A Dimension release. Adventure/Black comedy. Rated PG-13 for violence, frightening sequences and brief suggestive material. Running time: 117 min

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