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Brothers Grimm, The  Print E-mail
DVD Sci-Fi-Fantasy
Written by Mel Odom   
Tuesday, 20 December 2005



title:
The Brothers Grimm
studio:
Dimension Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: PG-13
starring: Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Peter Stormare, Lena Headey, Jonathan Pryce, Monica Bellucci
theatrical release year: 2005
DVD release year: 2005
film rating: Four Stars
sound/picture: Five Stars
reviewed by: Mel Odom

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 hilarious.

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 Marbaden.

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 eerie manner.

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 found it.

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 level.

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.


more details
sound format:
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound; French Language Track
aspect ratio(s):
Widescreen 1.85:1, Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions
special features: Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary; Feature Commentary; Bringing the Fairy Tale to Life; The Visual Magic Of "The Brothers Grimm"; Spanish Subtitles
comments: email us here...
   
reference system
DVD player: Pioneer DV-C302D
receiver: RCA RT2280
main speakers: RCA RT2280
center speaker: RCA RT2280
rear speakers: RCA RT2280
subwoofer: RCA RT2280
monitor: 42-inch Toshiba








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