The Brothers Grimm

Cover and Menu: 6/10
A fairy tale is a special kind of story. There are a lot of big characters, big action, and big ideas. I guess when you translate all of that into a movie and then stick it on a DVD the story might be too big to cram onto one little cover. This is an exciting tale with so much going on that to pick just a few odds and ends that need to speak to the DVD shopping public might be too much to ask. The cover is busy with our little movie star heroes, a couple of moments from the film, and of course, the evil queen at the heart of all that is dark and creepy in the story. It’s eye catching but it seems a bit slapped together to be honest. I think of a lot of fairy tale book covers I have seen in my life and this falls kind of flat in the imagination department.

The menu is just as uneventful. You just get still images with the navigation stuck on for pure function, no fancy stuff. For such a colorful adventure I would liked to have seen more effort in the packaging of the DVD.

Special Features: 5/10

  • Commentary By Director Terry Gilliam – This is a man of true creative spirit. He wants adventure, excitement, and some kind of strong reaction from the audience. He doesn’t seem to care if you like or hate his movies, including The Brothers Grimm, he just wants to create a unique experience. He talks about shooting scenes with a kind of innocence, even for a TV/film veteran. He appreciates the process and sounds like he’s in awe of the fact that “big stars” like Matt Damon and Heath Ledger would agree to be in his movie. He’s not like any other director who takes time to do commentary. I like the movie, but I like listening to Gilliam talk about making it even more.
  • Deleted Scenes – As with a lot of other DVD’s these deleted scenes are mostly extended versions of scenes that end up in the final cut of the movie. There is one scene however that Gilliam says needed to be cut simply because it was too good. Believe it or not. He comments that once you see this scene the action in the rest of the movie doesn’t live up to it so it had to go.
  • Bringing The Fairy Tale To Life Featurette – Interviews with Gilliam and the cast gives us a glimpse into what seems like a truly collaborative effort behind the scenes. Gilliam encourages performers to get into their roles, to ad lib and really bring their characters to life. He seems like the kind of director who wants everyone to make their film making experience into an adventure in itself. This feature shows how the story came about and how this is not a biographical history of the Grimm brothers at all, just a fantasy built around their famous collection of folk lore.
  • The Visual Magic Of The Brothers Grimm – A magical forest, centuries old queen, children being eaten by horses, oh yea, this is a special effects bonanza and this little feature takes us through a bit of the effort it took to bring it all to the big screen. I would like for these kinds of behind the scenes offerings to be longer, but I’ll take what I can get.

The Movie: 7/10
I love adventure, and what better place to find it than in a fairy tale? Terry Gilliam is the man for the job, that’s for sure. Since I first saw Time Bandits so many years ago I have been hooked on the ex-Monty Python member’s interesting take on the world and how he brings that to his movies.

I have to admit that I was looking forward to seeing a movie about how the Grimm Brothers compiled their great folk stories, you know the ones. I was hoping for some kind of biographical mixed with fantastic telling of yet another grand tale…but that’s not exactly what I found with The Brothers Grimm.

It’s not a true telling of anything really. It’s more like stepping through the looking glass and finding the alternate history of this colorful duo. In real life they were businessmen, lawyers, not the type to go on crazy exploits searching for magic beans or wicked witches. While their lives might not have been as exciting as the stories they have brought to the world, their legacy spawns a certain kind of mystery that obviously sparks a few people’s imaginations, people like Terry Gilliam.

In The Brothers Grimm we are introduced to two young men who make their way across French Occupied Germany making cold hard cash from the fears and superstitions of the country folks. One brother is driven by making money, the other collects details that are meant to become amazing stories. On their journey they come across a real life enchanted forest, a village tortured by something taking their young daughters, and a cursed “trapper” who happens to have sparkly white teeth and super model good lucky for them.

The brothers are enlisted by a strange and severe French general who wants to win over the German people by debunking their superstitions. Between the general and his Italian psycho torture master, the Grimms are dragged kicking and screaming into a forest where they find more than they bargain for. The trees come to life, the animals are creepy, and there’s a wolf who seems to be stalking them. Don’t forget that along the way we are reminded of some of the most famous Grimm fairy tales, like Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. As the movie unfolds you may be like me and start looking for more and more signs of well known stories. I’m not sure what all the Grimm tales are, but I’m sure there are more references than I noticed.

Gilliam puts his own twist on things which is pretty much the opposite of a Disney type of fairy tale. You won’t find anything sweet and light hearted in a Gilliam story. I mean, a young girl being gobbled up by a muddy glob, then turned into what looks like a giant gingerbread cookie, and THEN taking a bite of her own hand only to comment on how good it tastes..well, that ain’t sweet and innocent is it?

Damon and Ledger are both funny and do a great job of keeping the energy up in every scene, even if they occasionally go over the top with their theatrics. I guess that’s what their director wanted, so who am I to argue. I was impressed with their characters and the details they added along the way like facial expressions, gestures, and other bits and pieces that make them more charming than maybe they should be.

The movie is fun and takes you to a fantasy world that feels very much like other worlds like the one in Time Bandits. It’s dark and dirty and oddly realistic, even though its incredibly manufactured. If that makes any sense. I like the experience of being taken to another time and place that feels so unreal but believable at the same time. It’s a good story with a lot going on and it’s all wrapped up with mostly good special effects to give it that umph it needs.

Value: 6/10
I like the movie, and the extras are fairly good, but it’s not one of those films you just have to have in your collection. Unless, of course, you are a Gilliam fanatic. I would like to have seen this DVD to have either more extras, or for a lower price. At just over twenty bucks you don’t quite get your money’s worth. No offense Mr. Gilliam.:)

Overall Score 7/10