Terry Gilliam rarely has it easy making movies. Whether its his unfinished Don Quixote or the brilliant Brazil, the suits always want him to change things. The Brothers Grimm, with the shots called by the brothers Weinstein, is no exception. The $80 million biopic, ring Matt Damon as the skeptical Will Grimm and Heath Ledger as his susceptible brother Jacob, is so loosely based on the nineteenth-century German siblings who wrote Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and other famously grim fairy tales that there's hardly a word of truth in it. If you're a Gilliam junkie, as I am, you go with it, even when the script by Ehren Kruger (The Skeleton Key) loses its shaky hold on coherence. Damon quickly loses his hold on his accent and his wig. Ledger fares better as the nerdy brother who goes along with Will's plan to scam German villagers with fake witches that the boys banish for a fee. But Jake keeps looking for real magic. Ledger lets us see the hope in Jake's eyes when the brothers enter a forest ruled by a genuinely evil Mirror Queen (Monica Bellucci). It's Gilliam's chance to run amok, and watching him do it is eye-popping fun. Gilliam is Jake at heart, and it's a treat to see this former Monty Python (the troupe's only American) fart in the general direction of the Age of Reason in the persons of French governor Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce, pure ham and fromage) and his Italian henchman Cavaldi (an untamed Peter Stormare). Even when Gilliam flies off the rails, his images stick with you.
From The Archives Issue 351: September 3, 1981