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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

photo caption:
A FASCINATING SIGHT: The brothers Grimm, Jakob (Heath Ledger, left) and Wilhelm (Matt Damon) watch in fascination as Angelika (Lena Headey not pictured) dresses a rabbit that will be eaten for dinner.end caption.

The Brothers Grimm: Damon and Ledger are Tale-Spinning Siblings in Absurd Bio-Pic

Movie Review by Kam Williams

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859), the second and third eldest of nine children, were born in Hanau, a German city located near Frankfurt. Despite the French occupation of their homeland after it was conquered by Napoleon in the early 1800s, both boys followed in their father's footsteps and attended law school. They also exhibited an interest in fables at an early age, and began recording fairytales related by friends, relatives and well-known storytellers around the region. They finished their first book, a collection of 84 children's stories, in 1812.

All told, they published 585 of these folklore legends, including such beloved classics as Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, Cinderella, Mother Hubbard, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Jack and the Beanstalk, to name a few. They made additional cultural contributions such as the first German dictionary and history books.

So, it should come as no surprise that their lives are the subject of a bio-pic, although you might not expect a film as blasphemous as The Brothers Grimm until you learn that the director is Terry Gilliam. He has created other over-the-top historical comedies, such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Life of Brian (1979), and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988).

Heath Ledger and Matt Damon have the title roles as Jacob and Wilhelm, respectively. Unfortunately, they are betrayed by a script which fails to commit either to fantasy or fact. In spite of lavish sets, the film feels amateurish, as if mounted by the Little Rascals.

The plot, loosely based on the lives of the Grimm brothers, has frequent unexplained departures into the supernatural, which renders the material meaningless, except for occasional oblique allusions to one of the brothers' familiar fairy tales. The problem probably has to do with the fact that this is a Miramax film, and Miramax is a division of Disney.

Disney met with phenomenal success with Pirates of the Caribbean, a monster movie based on one of its amusement park theme rides. Miramax enjoyed its own hit in Finding Neverland, a biography of J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan. The Brothers Grimm relies heavily on winning elements of both those movies, almost as if their inclusion had been mandated by some Hollywood studio executive. Unfortunately, the marriage of fright fare with whimsical escapism fails to work.

No need to describe the disjointed, ear-splitting, visually-jarring, mirthless exercise in pandemonium that Gilliam passes off as family entertainment. It is too frightening and gory to be appropriate for young children and it will prove to be a sure cure for insomnia for any adult who accompanies children to the theater.

Poor (0 stars). Rating: PG-13 for graphic violence, frightening sequences, and suggestive material. Running time: 118 minutes. Studio: Miramax Films.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.



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