The Brothers Grimm
dir. Gilliam
Opens Fri Aug 26
Various Theaters

The sad truth is that if The Brothers Grimm weren't such a ghastly mess, it might have been one of Terry Gilliam's best films. Of course, Gilliam is no stranger to ghastly messes. The last time we saw him was in the wonderful, sad documentary Lost in La Mancha, in which the visionary and hubristic director met his meta-match while trying to adapt the story of Don Quixote to something like modern times. It proved too much for him, and the project became a prolonged abject lesson in the difference between soldiering on in the face of long odds and recognizing the point of no return. You'd think after that (and after The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, a half-brilliant, half-finished Gilliam film in which you can actually see the moment the money ran out) the man who gave us the unmitigated greatness of Time Bandits and Brazil might have figured out a few things.

Well, if he has, it doesn't show in Grimm, a film that seems tailor-made for the former Monty Python animator—yet suffers from general incoherency, murky cinematography, and irretrievably bad performances from the two lead actors. Matt Damon (doing his best Eddie Izzard impression) and Heath Ledger (who still hasn't been good in anything besides 10 Things I Hate About You) are the titular siblings, and they roam the mythical European countryside bilking peasants into thinking that their villages are haunted by the very curses that befall the characters in the beloved Grimm Fairy Tales we all heard as children. (Actually, we didn't; the real Grimm tales are far darker than what most wee ones are allowed to experience.) And then the brothers encounter some real monsters, discover their inner creative selves, learn to love, and blah, blah, blah. The film is a big mess, clearly the result of committee editing and directorial abandonment. And while there are a few nice moments here and there, I'm still waiting for Gilliam's real comeback. In the meantime, The Brothers Grimm proves to be just another windmill.