September 23, 2009

Justify My Netflix: The Brothers Grimm

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

The Brothers Grimm

Today's movie: The Brothers Grimm, 2005 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because it's one of the many overlooked modern films of former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam; and although I too have a checkered relationship with his oeuvre, I still like watching as many movies as his as possible at least once, just to see for myself what they were like. Because it stars the dreamy Heath Ledger and Matt Damon, and who can turn down a movie starring the dreamy Heath Ledger and Matt Damon?

The reality: Much better than I was expecting. In fact, the truth of the matter is that The Brothers Grimm is much more like Gilliam's earlier successes such as Time Bandits than his later, more troubled productions, all the way down to the whimsical semi-historical storyline: because for those who don't know, what this movie does is actually recast the famous fairytale collectors as con-men "ghost hunters" in Napoleonic Europe, who use their vast knowledge of backwoods folk tales along with a modicum of special effects in order to swindle superstitious villagers, first creating fictitious poltergeists and then "battling" them in plain sight of the overawed hillbillies, on the run the entire time from the ultra-rational government of early-19th-century France. So when the duo is eventually forced to fight the real thing, in a legitimately haunted section of Germany full of curiously Grimm-like creatures, needless to say that things turn sour for the two quickly, with Gilliam using this setup to deliver the kind of image/humor/history combination that made him so famous with his early movies to begin with. Not a masterpiece per se but certainly an overlooked little gem, better than its reputation and definitely worth catching if you ever get a random chance (like I did last week, on cable television during a boring Sunday afternoon).

Strangest piece of trivia: This was Gilliam's first experience working with famed producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein, and the resulting clash between the three is now infamous: they nixed most of Gilliam's first choices for actors, personally fired his long-time cinematographer Nicola Pecorini, slashed several important scenes that they deemed too costly, and fought with him for so long over final-cut privileges that he actually had time to shoot an entire other movie, the also-badly-recieved Tideland. It's for all these reasons that the movie didn't eventually come out until 2005 under a limited promotional budget, despite actually being filmed in 2003 using the biggest budget in MGM's history.

Worth your time? Yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 12:08 PM, September 23, 2009. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |