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Only Grim and Unsettling Is "The Brothers Grimm"

  • Eric Rice Contributing Writer
  • Updated Jul 28, 2007
Only Grim and Unsettling Is "The Brothers Grimm"

Release Date:  August 26, 2005
Rating:  PG-13 (violence, frightening sequences and brief suggestive material)
Genre:  Adventure/Comedy/Fantasy/Horror
Run Time:  125 min.
Director:  Terry Gilliam
Actors:  Petr Ratimec, Barbara Lukesova, Anna Rust, Jeremy Robson, Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Radim Kalvoda, Martin Hofmann

Director Terry Gilliam is known for quirky movies including “Time Bandits,” “Brazil,” and “12 Monkeys.”  He is a founding member, being the only American, of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and the animator for this wacky, irreverent British TV series.  Although he applies his same creativity to a pseudo-fariy tale scary story in "The Brothers Grimm," real Gilliam fans are better off renting one of his earlier films.

Brothers Wilhelm (Matt Damon) and Jacob (Heath Ledger) Grimm are charlatans.  They dupe villagers out of their wages by creating horrifying scenarios so that they can swoop in, defeat the villain, save the day and hopefully get the loving attention of the village waifs. Set in the early 1800s in French-occupied Germany, "Grimm" depicts the crafty siblings trying to cooperate with a very antagonistic French general and his sadistic, Italian-accented henchman who particularly hates the boys and makes it his job to expose them in every way.

As the story goes, the French order the brothers to go and expose charlatans like themselves (or be killed) in one particular German village situated next to a creepy, haunted woods where little girls are disappearing.  Wilhelm is the pragmatic older brother who believes all things can be answered with reason, while younger brother Jake is more of a dreamer and a romantic. Once in the village, they come face to face with the reality that there is an evil creature, a true boogey man, and a real enchanted forest where the trees are living.  There is a werewolf, scary crows and beetles by the bushel.

As they come to an increasing realization that there is truly evil afoot, the French apply more pressure to the brothers – not believing it could be supernatural. Soon there are disastrous results, including the gruesome deaths of many men.

One of the villagers is a strong-willed, lovely lass whose father vanished in the woods years earlier, and two of her younger sisters are among the group of recently disappeared. She has a working knowledge of what goes on in the woods, and she’s a love interest for the brothers. They both fall for her.

The crux of "Brothers Grimm" comes when the brothers realize they are indeed fighting a supernatural force, and Jake, who is writing stories in a book ("Grimm's Fairy Tales"), understands that they have to make this story have a happy ending somehow, amidst all the blood, gore and carnage. 

Trying to be all things to all people, “The Brothers Grimm” is definitely lacking. It tries to be funny, but then likable characters are killed gruesomely, followed by more “humor.”  You never know at any point in the story whether the scene is intended to be serious or tongue-in-cheek.  The movie tries to be cute in that it attempts to weave in "Little Red Riding Hood", "Hansel and Gretel", and "The Gingerbread Man."  To pull in a little "Jack and the Beanstalk," Jake sells the family cow for a handful of beans.  From then on, Wilhelm says of his brother’s romantic ideas, “It’s a handful of beans!” criticizing his brother for being the gullible one who believes in anything.  In the end, an evil witch in the village tower must be defeated by a combination of stronger magic and good common sense – which represents the two brothers.

From a Christian perspective, there’s not much cursing, but there is an exclamation of “Fat Jesus!” early on. Most disturbing to believers, however, is that the village people tell a story (with venom) about how a “Christian king” came into the forest, killed all the trees and built a city. 

“The Brothers Grimm” is not for children in any way, shape or form, as it is only violent, gory, scary, dark and misses on a lot of humor beats. It’s distracting in that the actors can never get their accents straight.  And if you’re expecting a handsome and dashing Matt and Heath, don’t hold your breath. Their strange prosthetics, heavy makeup, dirt, and a baby fuzz face are off-putting and result only in a pair of strange, bumbling brothers.

AUDIENCE:  Teenagers and adults


  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Wine drinking portrayed
  • Language:  One profanity ("Fat Jesus!).
  • Sex:  Implied
  • Violence:  Excessive, with scary creatures, stabbings, mutilation, beheadings, torture, etc.