|The Brothers Grimm
|Dimension Home Entertainment
||Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Peter Stormare, Lena Headey, Jonathan Pryce, Monica Bellucci
|theatrical release year:
|DVD release year:
Their names are legend. Just the mention of the Brothers Grimm recalls
childhood delights for readers, a score of movies by Walt Disney and
others, and tales twice told sitting around campfires or in bedrooms
late at night. A hundred years ago, most of the stories were told by
elders to children who wanted to stay up just a little longer and enjoy
a good scare before bedtime. Books weren't yet widespread, so the tales
lived on in the whisper-thin voices of indulgent grandmothers and
grandfathers who delighted in scaring the kids. Properly told, with the
original Grimm endings instead of those polished up for feature release
in Hollywood, the tales would raise the hair because not everyone made
it through those adventures and supernatural encounters alive or whole.
But no one really pays that much attention to the Brothers Grimm, Jacob
and Wilhelm, who actually assembled those tales. They were in law
school when they decided to collect the German folk tales they'd been
told as children. The first collection sold extremely well, prompting
them to proceed with more editions. In real life, they went to law
school and became librarians and remained close until their deaths.
In Terry Gilliam's version of "The Brothers Grimm", though, the
background story of the two siblings takes a decidedly darker cast. In
the movie version, Jake (Heath Ledger) and Will (Matt Damon) are
traveling con men who visit small villages and prey upon the
superstitious nature of the townsfolk. Maybe the back story is not
quite fair to the memory of the true Grimm brothers, but they would
have probably loved the idea of becoming part of the fantasies that are
told to willing audiences.
Chapter 1 opens up when Jake and Will are small boys. With their sister
sick, Jake takes the family cow into town to get money for a doctor and
instead ends up with "magic" beans, setting the division that
delineates the characters of the two brothers. Jake chooses to believe
in magic and collects the tales in a book, but Will sees only
opportunities to con people as young Jake was conned. The surround
sound crashes with the driving roar of the rain as the story
progresses. Then, as the movie switches to what is the "present day" of
1811 in Germany, at a lightning-pace, Will and Jake approach the town
elders regarding a witch who has taken up residence in an old
farmhouse. For a fee, they agree to get rid of the dangerous creature.
In the sequence in the farmhouse that shows the brothers’ fight with
the witch, the surround sound system gets a great workout broadcasting
all the sounds of the fight. The blows echo through the subwoofer, the
action moves from left to right, the noise of the crossbow, the pistol,
the burning cross, the screaming witch, and the howling all sound like
they're in our faces. The sound is separated and done so well that the
audience feels as though they are inside that farmhouse. Ultimately,
though, the subterfuge the Brothers Grimm have managed to pull off is
revealed to us.
The story of Little Red Riding Hood comes to life in Chapter 2. The
sequence is shot extremely vividly, but the audio portion pouring
through the surround sound system sets the mood. When the little girl
is taken, amid the crash and roar of the thunder and the musical score,
it brings a definite stroke of dark fear to the movie.
Chapter 3 moves into celebration after the successful exorcism of the
witch. The sounds of the tavern roll all around us, making us feel as
though we are inside the room. The dialogue, pacing, and characters all
lend themselves to the enhanced audio permitted by the surround sound
system. In short order, after retiring upstairs with a couple of girls,
the siblings are approached by Cavaldi (Peter Stormare), a torturer who
was sent to bring the Brothers Grimm to investigate a mystery for the
French Army, who are occupying Germany at the time. A sequence with the
horses with their tails on fire dragging the Brothers Grimm by ropes is
The torturer's dungeon in Chapter 4 comes alive through the sound of
maniacal machinery gears clanking and rattling, as well as the screams
and cries of the victims. The French general (Jonathan Pryce) wants the
brothers to find the children who have gone missing from the village of
Chapter 5 opens up with another familiar Brothers Grimm tale, this one
focusing on Hansel and Gretel, here two youngsters who are searching
for the little girls who have already been taken. A sequence with a
floating scarf, though easily done, is eerie. Bird cries echo through
the surround sound system, and the liquid rush of ambulatory tree
branches slithering through the forest puts us on edge.
Geese flutter and run in panic at the opening of Chapter 6, flooding
the surround sound system with explosive noise, which is startling
after the quiet dread of the last chapter. In short order, the brothers
meet with local guide and hunter Angelica (Lena Headey), reputed to be
cursed, in Chapter 7. Subtle touches here include the foreshadowing of
the tower and the tie Angelica’s family has to the missing children.
The ravens following the entourage consisting of the Brothers Grimm,
Angelica, Cavaldi and his men properly set the tone for the magical
confrontation ahead in Chapter 8. The ravens scream and glide from
branch to branch, and their cawing swoops through the surround sound
system. Later, the trees move with appropriate thuds that hammer
through the subwoofer and create the appropriate sense of enormous
weight. The viewer gets the legend of the queen of the tower later on
in the chapter, as Angelica's father tells her the tale in a properly
One of the more grotesque scenes, though not gory, occurs in Chapter 9
when the mysterious hunter/werewolf feeds Jake's horse a handful of
spiders. In Chapter 10, the supernatural effect on the horse is
revealed amid a stunning blast of horse thuds, whinnies, and screams.
In the forest in Chapter 11, the previously skeptical Will becomes a
true believer. The trees attack and close in, the thuds of their
movements heavy and resounding through the subwoofer. Angelica's
encounter with the werewolf is amazing, and rightfully so. In the
special features sections, the watcher discovers that the werewolf
sequences with CG (and failed anamorphic) were the most difficult to
shoot. One of the best parts in this chapter is hearing Will and Jake
scream like girls!
Ultimately, the Brothers Grimm track the evil back to its roots, which
resembles one of the tales they’ve collected. Magic exists, and they've
The special features included on the disc are good. The commentary by
director Terry Gilliam is very welcome, providing insight into the film
and the problems they had in bringing the script to life. Also, the
director has magnificent scope in his projects. His observations will
be interesting for anyone planning on a film career or just curious
about how movies come to life. "Bringing the Fairytale to Life" and
"The Visual Magic of the Brother Grimm" are great pieces that likewise
illuminate the trials and travails of the moviemakers.
Overall, "The Brothers Grimm" is a keeper, one that can be viewed by
the family (no excessive gore or parts so intensely scary that young
viewers will bail on the experience) on movie night and thoroughly
enjoyed. In fact, "The Brothers Grimm" is worth watching a few times.
Perhaps the story line is simple, but the characters, dialogue and
pacing are sharp.
The greatest strength of the movie is the visual presentation. Through
the use of heavy CG effects, the viewer will feel as though a German
forest and cursed tower have come to life in the living room, held at
bay only by the television screen. The documentaries show the great
lengths Gilliam went to in order to achieve that effect, holding up
shooting even for the geese wranglers to do their jobs and get the
geese in the frame properly.
"The Brothers Grimm" is a visual treat that could probably be enjoyed
with the sound off, but the inclusion of a surround sound system into
the viewing experience brings the atmosphere to a whole new, immediate
Either way, as a DVD rental for movie night or an addition to the Matt
Damon, Heath Ledger and/or Terry Gilliam collector, "The Brothers Grimm" is a solid investment of entertainment time.
|English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound; French Language Track
|Widescreen 1.85:1, Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions
Scenes with Optional Commentary; Feature Commentary; Bringing the Fairy
Tale to Life; The Visual Magic Of "The Brothers Grimm"; Spanish
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