Gilliam and Grimm, an alleged perfect match. Both tell fantastical stories, the formers can be seen as somewhat bizarre, but visually sumptuous. However, this movie has had a reasonable amount of critical mauling, but was it really deserved?
Our film starts with the Grimm's sister being terribly ill, on her death bed no less, but she would be fine if she had the right medicine. To obtain that, they need the money from the cow young Jacob has taken to sell, which he has, although he has obtained something better - magic beans. To say this was well received would be akin to saying Posh Spice can hold a tune i.e not very well. Fast forward fifteen years and the brothers are now well known for their heroic deeds of slaying evil demons. Only thing is, it's all a scam. They are nothing but charlatans, arranging for “demons” to appear there before they stroll into town and vanquish the evil, for a fair price of course. However, as Germany is under the rule of the French, word gets back to Delatombe (Pryce), who is going to execute the duo for their conniving ways, except one town is mentioned, by the name of Marbarden, where they've never been to perform their con. A decision is made that if the Grimm's reveal the fraudsters, then they may live. Only one small problem - this evil is real.
A wicked queen (Bellucci) has taken control of the woods as well as having used a spell of eternal life, but she requires 12 children to complete a spell to regain her beauty. At the time of the Grimm's arrival, she has 10 already. Is it possible for the Grimm's to foil her plan, keeping in mind that one of them doesn't believe it's anything other than a fabrication? Or will the wicked queen's diabolical plan succeed?
I think a lot of the time with Gilliam's movies, you either get them or you don't. From Brazil to Monkeys, people seem to love them or hate them and I honestly think this is no different. The usual Gilliam-isms are there, visually wonderful, quirky characters and story and not quite your normal Hollywood flick, but I can't quite shake the feeling that this is Gilliam at his most commercial or accessible. Maybe it's the sight of a major cast, but Monkeys didn't skimp on talent, although Willis and Pitt then weren't as huge as Damon & Ledger are now, or maybe we've seen more eclectic movies, such as Miike's work, that we're more accustomed to quirky, but I've not said this is bad - just tamer than Gilliam's previous work. In fact, I quite enjoyed this movie, as the premise was intriguing, the execution was a little flawed however, with the storyline becoming a little muddled in places. There are some terrible CGI effects (and some that are actually well done), one in particular - the wolf. Just watch American Werewolf and then this and I think you'll agree that CGI in this case, can not beat the effects of 20 years ago. To be fair, I'm prepared to forgive any movie ropey special effects if the rest of the package is decent enough and in my mind, it is. Gilliam, as stated, shows his usual flair and I can't help but wonder what he could do with a Cameron sized budget. Damon and Ledger are suitably convincing in the titular roles, even if these German characters sound rather English. Bellucci isn't in this movie enough if you ask me, but she certainly 'fills' the role of evil, seductive queen perfectly well. Pryce suitably hams up the role of Delatombe, but the star of this movie is Stormare, as the wonderfully weird Italian torturer Cavaldi. He just steals scenes with his stereotypical accent and superb delivery, what can I say other than he is great fun here. Oh, I shouldn't forget the pretty Hedley either as love interest and brave heroine, Angelika. Certainly never looked better and works well as the brave foil to the Grimms antics, even if licking a toad is rather disgusting. We also have some very Python-esque moments - I actually thought it was me, so I mentioned it to my boss who agreed there are a few points which just remind you of the Monty days.
So even if you can argue that Gilliam isn't firing on all cylinders, the movie is certainly fun and quirky which is considerably better than a lot of the current fare. If I had to choose between something like this and say, Stealth, this winds hands down because at least it dares to be a little different instead of spoon-feeding you the same old Hollywood tosh year in, year out. Grab a copy, have no expectations and just enjoy it for what it is. Fun.
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