Review: 'Grimm' gorgeous but empty
The images are intriguing, but where's the story?
By Paul Clinton
Heath Ledger, left, and Matt Damon in "The Brothers Grimm."
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(CNN) -- "The Brothers Grimm," directed by Terry Gilliam, is visually stunning. That's no surprise, since Gilliam has a reputation as a visionary filmmaker.
But "visionary" doesn't always mean "good," and in the case of "The Brothers Grimm," the outstanding scenic design and computer-generated effects overwhelm the extremely weak script by Ehren Kruger. What we have here isn't a movie, it's a coffee-table book.
The film's premise is promising. The film isn't about the real Brothers Grimm; it's a fairy tale within a fairy tale set during the early Enlightenment, when superstition and mythology still ran rampant. So, with that in mind ...
Once upon a time there lived two brothers, the cynical and womanizing Wilhelm Grimm (Matt Damon), and the romantic dreamer, Jacob Grimm (Heath Ledger). Together, the brothers con naive European villagers into believing they can drive away trolls, witches and every other kind of monster.
When Napoleon's army invades central Europe, the Grimms' jig is up. The pair is arrested by General Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce), the French governor -- now in charge of the conquered area -- and his inept henchman Cavaldi (Peter Stormare). Accused of kidnapping girls from the village of Marbaden, the brothers, along with a local huntress, Angelika (Lena Headey), are sent into an enchanted forest to solve the mystery of the missing girls and thereby prove the brothers' innocence.
The forest is a wonder. The Grimms find gnarled trees that turn into monsters and an evil queen (Monica Bellucci) who is loosely based on the queen from "Snow White." There are also brief appearances by other classic Grimm characters, including Little Red Riding Hood, the Gingerbread Man, Hansel and Gretel and Rapunzel.
You'd think it would be enough to make an enchanting movie.
Impossible to follow
Monica Bellucci plays an elaborately dressed queen who may have something to do with the mystery.
But there is no movie. To borrow Gertrude Stein's assessment of Oakland, California, "there is no there there." The pictures are nice, but the murky and muddy storyline of "The Brothers Grimm" is impossible to follow no matter how many breadcrumbs are left behind.
Kruger may have penned the successful American version of the Japanese film "The Ring," but he also brought us the hideous movie "Reindeer Games" starring Ben Affleck.
The acting doesn't help. Everyone hams it up and overacts up to the point of total embarrassment.
"The Brothers Grimm" was supposed to be released months ago, but the studio was reportedly not pleased with the film and Gilliam -- who went off to direct another movie -- returned to the project six months later and made major changes. Sorry, Terry. You wasted your time.
If you want to see Gilliam at his best you should rent one of his other movies, such as the inventive "Brazil," or perhaps "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," which he co-directed with Terry Jones.
Unfortunately, this attempt at bringing an offbeat tale to the big screen is a dud. If you must look for it at all, try the discount bin at a local video store near you. It will look mighty nice there in a few months.
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