Published Sep 01, 2005When we last heard from iconoclastic director Terry Gilliam, it was not from a piece of filmmaking he'd completed, but one that he never would: it was the chronicle-of-disasters documentary Lost In La Mancha. For the man that directed Time Bandits, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and 12 Monkeys, little seems to come easy.
Though I have no idea what transpired behind the scenes of his latest, The Brothers Grimm, it might have been a little too easy - or perhaps the powers that be have had their way with Mr. Gilliam, for Grimm, while visually inventive and occasionally delightful, suffers from a stiffness that is certainly uncharacteristic of one of modern filmmaking's least inhibited visionaries.
It tells the story of two brothers, Will and Jake, who con innocent villagers by first creating and then exorcising "mystical" happenings in small communities. When they encounter a real mystery (which draws from elements of the original Grimm fairy tales, from Little Red Riding Hood to Hansel and Gretel), they must use their wits to solve it and save the day. As the brothers, Matt Damon and Heath Ledger do their level best, running about in ridiculous costumes and flailing away at spooks and hallucinations with vigour. The haunted forest they navigate comes alive with appropriately lo- and high-tech mechanics, Monica Belluci appears as the tempting evil queen, there are a few frights, some laughs and it ends.
If this seems dismissively straightforward, it's exactly how Gilliam's film feels: fans strain forward in their seats eager to grasp at any sign that the visionary of Brazil is still at the helm, but aside from the film looking quite cool - in a rustic, artfully set designed kind of way - one can't help but think that Gilliam really wants to give the studio what they want in hopes that some box office success will get financiers off his back and they'll leave him alone.
To that end, I hope The Brothers Grimm does smashing business and he can get back to making his own quirky work in peace. It just won't be included in a long list of Gilliam masterworks. (Dimension/Alliance Atlantis)