The Brothers Grimm is a 2005 fantasy film directed by Terry Gilliam. It stars Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as the title characters. The film takes place in a French occupied Germany at some point in the 1800s. The gist of the film leads the two brothers on a quest to stop the theft of children from a village close to a forest. Once in the forest, they quickly realize that it isn’t an ordinary forest, and that they may be in over their heads.
However, these people are the Brothers Grimm after all, slaying many magical beings in the past. At least, that is what everyone but the audience is led to believe. The brothers are actually con-artists; staging every “encounter” they’ve ever held. These people are unlikeable from the start, and this doesn’t really change throughout the film. Eventually a French general catches them and orders them to help out a village. The village’s children are all disappearing, for reasons explained much later in the movie, and the brothers must find a way to both put a stop to this, as well as bring any living body back.
The premise isn’t bad. The cast is quite good. The visual effects are top notch. With these three things in mind, it leaves me wondering what went wrong with this production. The fairytale elements don’t actually have all that much of an impact, seemingly thrown in just to make people have nostalgic memories upon seeing them. Apart from a couple fairytale twists, the characters play it straight, and make more of a cameo than anything. They appear, and are gone within a matter of minutes, seemingly there just to distract the audience for all of their screen time. There are also too many villains, a problem that many films before have also had. The film seems to have a lot of good ideas, but they never quite fit together, and instead end up as a big mess on the floor.
The main reason for it not being enjoyable to watch is that it was actually quite boring. Despite there usually being a fair bit of action going on, none of it really seems to matter and the characters it involves mean so little that live or die, it never really matters. For instance, about 3/4 through the movie, there is a chance for it to end, and on a dark note as well. However, it doesn’t end here, but is instead dragged on another half hour due to an expected cliché of an escape attempt. When a character is faced with peril, you do care, but not for the character. You care about the actor. That is all. The characters are unlikeable and un-relatable. This in itself isn’t the problem. What is the problem is the fact that you can’t warm up to them for any reason. They play one note, and you quickly get tired of them. However you won’t get as tired of them as you will of the villains.
The large number of enemies in this film becomes a slight bit overbearing. There are three main villains, all of which must share screen time with one another, before one by one they are beat upon by the brothers. The villains motivation is often times left unsaid, meaning we can’t even care for them in that respect. Even the main enemy’s motivation is her own stupidity 500 years ago. Trying to rectify a large mistake is fair enough, but waiting a contrived time period to do it, just so that the brothers can deal with it seemed a bit silly.
Another thing that felt silly was the film’s constantly changing tone. It flips between comedy and dark fantasy so often that you become of the belief that it cannot make up its mind. You think this because that thought is absolutely true. It never does, and in this film, it doesn’t work. Some moments are genuinely funny, but those are followed up with a horse eating a child, or a girl losing her face. The latter events feel somewhat out of place, especially because of the previous scene of laughter and light heartedness. The darker moments end up being the best part of the film though, despite not really belonging.
The reason that the tone shift works the best is due to the visual effects used during them. The visual effects look very impressive, and are always a joy to look at. The monster effects and background scenery al look impressive, and will at least almost distract you from checking the time every now and then. They truly are the most exciting thing on the screen, and when the film decides to stay dark for any prolonged period of time, it starts to become interesting. And then it will switch back into a comedy for a couple minutes, ruining the entire experience.
The films ever-changing nature of tone does not do what it is supposed to. If done seamlessly, the change could definitely be for the better. As it is, it disconnects the disconnected audience further from what could have been an impressive film. Take out all of the comedy aspects, and The Brothers Grimm certainly could be an adult fairy tale. Right now, it fails in that regard, and fails even harder in trying to keep the audience entertained. You care more for the actors than the characters they are portraying. You care more for the scenery than the plot within it, and most importantly, you care more about the time on your watch than anything happening on the screen.