Prayer Focus
Movie Review

The Brothers Grimm

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, frightening sequences and brief suggestive material

Reviewed by: Chris Monroe

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens, Adults
Fantasy, Thriller, Comedy
1 hr. 58 min.
Year of Release:
Featuring: Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Monica Bellucci, Jonathan Pryce, Lena Headey
Director: Terry Gilliam
Producer: John D. Schofield, Daniel Bobker, Chris McGurk
Distributor: Dimension Films
Copyright, Dimension Films
Copyright, Dimension Films
Copyright, Dimension Films
Copyright, Dimension Films
Copyright, Dimension Films
Copyright, Dimension Films
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Dimension Films

Eliminating Evil Since 1812 / No curse we can’t reverse. No spell we can’t break. No demon we can’t exterminate.

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Brothers Jake and Will Grimm, renowned collectors of folklore, have made a career out of traveling from village to village pretending to rid them of “enchanted” creatures. Their bluff is called, however, when they are forced by Napoleon’s French government to investigate a haunted forest where girls have been disappearing mysteriously. What they discover leads to a series of adventures involving an actual evil (and immortal) sorceress that mirrors that of mythology and the fables that the Brothers Grimm would eventually become famous for.”

Sowing your time at a showing of Terry Gilliam’s newly fandangled fantasy film will cause you to reap some grim images, but will also bear some enjoyable and fun fruit as well. Ultimately, “The Brothers Grimm” is fashioned with a familiar fairy-tale formula, replete with various depictions of evil, but one that results in a redemptive, happy ending.

Reminiscent of Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical “Into the Woods” this adventure includes a mish-mash of various children’s fairy tales and begins in the same “once upon a time” manner. This “Grimm” tale starts off in French occupied Germany in 1796 with two young boys who are trying to save their sick mother, but one of them exchanges all they have for magic beans. Eighteen years later, these two brothers, Jake (Heath Ledger) and Will (Matt Damon) work as con-artists pretending to exorcize witches, but find themselves caught up in a bigger mission to help save missing children from the evil Queen Mirror (Monica Bellucci).

As in any fairy tale, there is the depiction of good, as well as evil. This movie is rated PG-13 and does take some liberty to show some dark, gruesome images. Much of the idea is to have the same scary feel that you would have while reading a fairy tale, but also pushes past that at various moments. For example, there is one image of two heads that have been decapitated, one man who has been cut in half and a silhouette of a small boy being swallowed by a horse.

On a more positive note, there is a wealth of humor involved throughout the story. This is the best piece I have ever seen Ledger perform in, and he does well as the quirky, insecure brother. Both he and Damon bungle around enough and give you something to laugh at. Even better are the performances by Peter Stormare and long time Gilliam cohort, Jonathan Pryce. They are sharp and highly entertaining. There were, of course, Monty Python style incidents, with one in particular where everyone does a spit bit.

Most of the language is very decent throughout, save an instance or two where Christ’s name is used in vain. There is also no nudity, but one scene takes place in a tavern where Jake and Will are becoming fairly intoxicated. This sequence also includes Will taking two girls up to the bedroom with him, and later shows him waking up in bed with the two of them. They are all fully clothed, but the implication is clear.

Terry Gilliam has certainly kept in sync with his style of filmmaking with “The Brothers Grimm”. The CGI is a little distracting, but some of the other choices, such as the cartoonish opening credits, are very effective. It has taken a while for this movie to finally be released, but one thing I found out was that the director did not want to compromise the film. Before its release, I bumped into Matt Damon who told me Terry spent a long time in the editing room working with the studio—but that he finally got his cut. It’s refreshing to see that this kind of commitment still exists.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/nudity: Mild

Year of Release—2005 / USA release: August 26, 2005 (wide).

Viewer Comments
Negative—My husband and I had been looking forward to seeing this picture, which promised amazing special effects and effective, atmospheric sets combined with allusions to famous fairytales. On a positive note, the costumes were very good: the wicked queen’s elaborate golden “escoffin” headdress and gown were very well done, even if the dress (accurately) was very low-cut. The sets were creepy and the special effects were good. The sound (at least in our Dolby theater) was not so great; some of the French officers’ lines were almost masked by background noise. The allusions to fairy tales (Rapunzel, Gingerbread Boy, Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood, etc.) were well done.

In spite of its fairy-tale connections, this is a VERY dark movie. No one could confuse these fairy tales with their Disney-fied counterparts! The vampiric Evil Queen seems modeled on the real-life Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who kidnapped and drank the blood of young peasant girls. (To paraphrase a line in the movie: truth often IS worse than fairy tales.) There are scenes of torture, extreme violence, drunkeness and executions.

For a Christian, there are even more negative aspects. The Evil Queen is shown in connection with icons and Christian statutes and illustrations. I felt that one part of the movie was pro-pagan, as the Christian king is blamed for supressing the “old ways” of pagan-forest worship. This is a small part of the movie, though, and many people may not even catch it.

Some reviewers have seen a positive note in that this movie is at least pro-supernatural. The French refuse to believe in the supernatural at all until it attacks them, while the German townspeople KNOW that there is something more to life than the natural world. Much of the supernatural power in this movie is definitely evil, however. one of the Grimm Brothers proclaims himself “savior” of the townspeople (while tapping on a crucifix). Prayer or faith have no place in conquering the Evil Queen.

If I wanted older children/young adults to learn about the dark side of the original fairy tales, or even about Elizabeth Bathory, I think it would be better to let them read about it. Older teenagers might could see this movie with a lot of discussion afterwards about Wiccans and paganism, as well as the immoral behavior of the Grimm Brothers. (And why are French people presented in such a negative light?) This movie is technically interesting and visually stunning, but it carries a lot of extra baggage with it. Like the Evil Queen herself, this movie seduces us visually while hiding a rotten core underneath.
My Ratings: Offensive/4
—Tristeange, age 35
Neutral—This movie had a lot of potential, but I never really felt it reached it. It was almost as if the director was so excited about the concept that he couldn’t wait to produce a quality movie to put on the big screen. It wasn’t as entertaining as the previews made it out to be. Rent it, don’t waste your money to see it in the theaters. This was definitely a hit-and-miss for the director.
My Ratings: Better than Average/2
—Catherine, age 19
Negative—I felt sick watching it! It was just one gross scene after the next. I finally walked out an hour into it. I wished I had walked out much sooner. I had a hard time getting some of the images out of my mind. I am not fan of the horror genre and did not think this was in that category. I should have checked it out before going to see this with some friends about 10 years younger who were also very disappointed. One of them commented that it was demented. This type of movie may be pretty typical for what some young people are growing up seeing, but that is really very sad. I just kept closing my eyes and wondering if it would get better, but the yucky scenes just came one after the other. I did get a free ticket after I told the manager how I felt about the movie…
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/4
—Pam, age 39
Positive—…pretty much pure fun… there isn’t a lot of bad language or dirty comments or actions… there is a little bit of violence… gore etc. but I really enjoyed the whole movie—IT WAS REALLY FUNNY!
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
—Liz, age 19

Comments from young people
Neutral—This movie was boring, seemed like it lasted forever, and was just weird. Don’t let little kids watch this because there’s a few weird scenes in it that might freak them out. Example: There was this one scene where a kid’s face gets this glob on it and the face disappears. The kid makes gaggling sounds, turns into the gingerbread man, and jumps in a well of water while the dad stands there terrified. It’s just a weird movie with no real plot. Although they don’t really cuss, and it’s not a “bad” movie, it’s boring, I wouldn’t waste any money on it…
My Ratings: Average / 2
—Gloria, age 17
Negative—I went with a friend to see this movie and neither one of us really knew what it was going to be about so we didn’t have any expectations. Two or three times during the movie we looked at each other and asked “what are we watching?” parts that were supposed to be funny weren’t and parts that were serious… at least I think they were supposed to be serious… I was in hysterics.

The characters seemed distant from each other not like brothers should be. It took me off guard when Matt Damon was the confident brother when in past movies he was more like Heath Ledger’s character.

There were definitely some gory parts that didn’t make sense whatsoever like the horse and the child and the blob-turned child-eater-turned gingerbread man. If you must see this wait til its on DVD don’t waste your hard earned money on this sleeper of a movie.
My Ratings: Average / 2½
—Brittany, age 17
Neutral—I had my doubts about this movie, but I enjoyed it. Yes, it had its plot holes, but overall a good film with likeable characters. Anyone 14 or older should be able to watch this movie, but younger kids may have nightmares.
My Ratings: Offensive/3½
—Matthew, age 16
Positive—“The Brothers Grimm” was both a good and bad film. It was bad, because it has a lot of dark, chilling, creepy images; the special affects are definitely not the best; there’s a scene or two of stuff that goes against the Bible; and a slightly dragging plot.

It’s also good, because while some of the images are chilling and dark, there’s also some funny moments and humor mixed in as well; the scenes that are objectional are very brief; there’s almost no gore; and the director managed to cleverly fit in stuff from Grimm fairy tales that you can easily recognize (although admittedly a couple of references are, well, grim).

All in all, this film is just as I rated this: average. It would’ve been spectacular, I suppose, if the affects were better and it wasn’t so dark and the plot had been a bit faster. At any rate, it lives up to its name as a thriller very well (sort of like Secret Window, only in a different way). Because of this, I don’t recommend it to people under my age (twelve), or to anyone who is scared easily.
My Ratings: Average/3½
—Cassie B., age 12
Neutral—…I’ll give some credit to the people who made this movie, it was pretty cool how they put a lot of fairy-tales together into one whole movie. But I’m sorry, it was not that entertaining, I thought that movie would never end.
My Ratings: Average/2½
—Ben, age 14
Negative—I will note here that my review contains graphic detail and should not be read if you don’t like spoilers or are extremely squeamish…

…No offense to the author of this review, but he understated some of the horrific scenes, which led to my leaving this film before it had finished.

When I read about the “bad parts,” I assumed those would generally be the only things I would be seeing and I thought the humor I was promised from the commercials and reviews would surely make up for the downside. One thing that is not mentioned… is the gruesomeness of the possessed horse before he swallows the child, her frightened moans lasting for what seems like hours (in reality, it was more like 1-2 minutes. It seemed much longer), before it pans out to the shadow, and she is being swallowed. And then we see the beast running away with a large lump in it’s stomach and the girl screaming from inside.

Later, a small, adorable white kitten is walking along the floor during an absurd scene where a woman is being threatened with a large, spinning blade. And when the torturer sees the animal, he kicks it in the air, where we see it hit the blade and get chopped into bits, pieces of its flesh flying everywhere. This was NOT needed in any way. It did not further the plot. It did nothing for any sort of development. It was pure gore, plain and simple. This was the last straw for me, and when I finally left the theatre for good.

As for the brothers themselves, Will was an immoral, greedy individual who didn’t seem to care for his brother at all. When they were being captured, Will left Jake behind without a second thought (although he yelled “I’ll come back for you!,” it was doubtful that he meant it). He shows several times in the movie his own selfishness and cynicism. I couldn’t stand to watch him… I saw no brotherly love for Jake, who he constantly berates and orders around. (Of course, this could have been shown near the end of the film, as I only saw the first half, but even so, his attitude was so repulsive in the first half that it ruined my entire image of him.)

Jake, on the other hand, was probably the best character in the movie. He embodies hope, childlike innocence, loyalty and courage. In a way, he’s everything that Will is not. At the beginning of the movie, he seems a bit ashamed of cheating people (at least, he feels what he’s doing is degrading), but despite how Will treats him, he still follows him with an admirable loyalty and love. He is also portrayed as a little oafish and cowardly at first, but when Will is running scared, Jake is the one to suggest going back into the forest to save the children.

…another character was a man named Cavaldi, who enjoyed torturing people. He was displayed prominently through the movie with his ridiculously fake accent and every so often he would just freak out and do something crazy (such as killing the little kitten), and he was constantly threatening and torturing others. I was waiting for him to get killed in the forest, just so I wouldn’t have to listen to him anymore. But alas, it never happened. And I learned later from my brother (who watched the whole thing) that, despite being the most annoying character in the movie, he ended up surviving and was portrayed as one of the “heroes”! !

Other than these points, there are a few swear words such as “ba***rd” which was used at least three times, and a few uses of the Lord’s name in vain. Most of them you couldn’t catch because of the horrible fake accents everyone had (I believe Heath Ledger was the only one using his real voice). There were few redeeming qualities in any of the characters aside from Jake and Angelika, and all the horror you see before it is hardly justified by any sort of “happy ending” you get. If you have to search long and hard to get to the good in this movie, it’s just not worth watching.

As for the supposed “humor,” I heard nothing that warranted even a chuckle, much less a hearty laugh. Any humor was a quick one liner that often sounded cheesy, understated or strained. This movie was not funny, to put it simply. I found nothing entertaining in this movie. Believe me, I tried very hard to like it! I love action adventure and period movies, and I really enjoy Matt Damon. I kept telling myself it would get better, and that the things I was seeing weren’t really as bad as they looked (they were), but in the end, I couldn’t fight my conscience. The only thing I got from the experience was a sick stomach and a feeling of guilt for not leaving sooner.

This movie should have been rated R… I urge anyone, no matter who they are, not to see this movie. It’s a bad movie for ANYONE, not just kids and young teens. It’s not entertaining, it’s not funny, and it’s trash. I especially issue warning to those under 18 and those who are squeamish; this movie is not for you!
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/3
—Jessica, age 17
Negative—This is one of the more piontless movies I have seen. The plot is hard to follow and some of my favorite fairy-tales have been twisted into some thing I would rather have not seen. This movie is very dark and not for children at all. To say the least, I regret going to see it. What a waste of a Saturday night!
My Ratings: Offensive / 4
—Lanae, age 14
Positive—…very interesting with a taste of adventure that people from 15 and up will love. I was scared at some parts. It was better then average. Though it is not a movie I would watch over and over again mind you, it was only a spure of the moment thing.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—sammi_bear, age 15
Movie Critics
…only grim and unsettling… It tries to be funny, but then likable characters are killed gruesomely, followed by more “humor.” …not for children in any way, shape or form, as it is only violent, gory, scary, dark…
—Ed Rice, Crosswalk
…flawed yet enthralling, visually spectacular fairy-tale fantasia…
—James Verniere, The Boston Herald
…It’s a great idea done badly… over-the-top …gets the drama right but overplays much of the humor. It’s as if lots of cool pictures were shot, but the film fell apart in the editing room…
—John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
…Terry Gilliam’s fractured fairy tale has some amazing moments but a muddled plot…
—Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Eleanor Ringel Gillespie
…a coffee-table book of a movie: all images, no story… gorgeous but empty…
—Paul Clinton, CNN
…a work of limitless invention, but it is invention without pattern, chasing itself around the screen without finding a plot…
—Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert
…Gilliam’s latest fiasco… Once upon a time, “The Brothers Grimm” happened—unfortunately.
—Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel