Knight at the Movies ARCHIVES
My Big, Fat Fairy Tale and Murder South of the Border:
The Brothers Grimm, Cronicas
8-24-05 Knight at the Movies column
By Richard Knight, Jr.

It’s the 19th Century and throughout the Bavarian countryside Will (Matt Damon) and Jacob (Heath Ledger) are
having a whale of a time posing as
The Brothers Grimm, spinning variations on the famous fairy tales and
convincing superstitious villagers that they can rid them of their local ghosts, demons and the like.  But their
success falters when they finally encounter the real thing – a haunted forest presided over by trees that have come
by way of
The Evil Dead and The Wizard of Oz – and a genuine curse courtesy of a nasty witch.  Aided by the
rough, tough but gorgeous Angelika (Lena Headey), however, the duo gather the courage to head back into the
woods and shake the area from the spell cast by the witch.

This rather fanciful concoction is the work of screenwriter Ehren Kruger and director Terry Gilliam.  Kruger wrote
the recent haunted house gothic
The Skeleton Key and the Ring pictures while Gilliam has worked the fantasy
genre in many of his previous outings.  When you add blond heart throbs Damon and Ledger to the mix you
suddenly seem to have an action/fairy tale amalgamation that sounds like a recipe for success.  But surprisingly,
this overdose of talent makes for a rather bland stew.  

It’s not the fault of the art direction as Gilliam’s magical forest, photographed in deep golden russets, rivals the one
Ridley Scott had created for Legend.  In fact, the film’s a visual delight and the script does its job spinning on the
all too familiar fairy tales.  Nor is it the fault of the cast, as they ably embrace the silly story and ribald situations.  
Ledger, especially, brings plenty to his role as the younger distracted brother that yearns for love while Headey is
sure to give Keira Knightly a run for her money as the new pin up girl for lesbians.  And one never tires of the
beauty of Monica Bellucci, this generation’s Sophia Loren, who is best when she’s required to do nothing more than
pose, as she is here as the Mirror Queen.

So with all that, why is the film oddly unenthralling?

Every great director has his or her share of films that show them to be marking time between masterpieces.  
Hitchcock with
Under Capricorn and The Wrong Man, Coppola with Peggy Sue Got Married, Scorsese with The
Color of Money
, and Jane Campion with everything after The Piano.  These are not bad films (and many have their
avid devotees), but they’re flawed because they lack any hint of their famous director’s personalities and they
could have been directed by any fairly competent craftsman.  The Brothers Grimm is just such a film.  For all the
visual flourishes and attention to detail, it’s still a too neat, rudimentary movie and Gilliam’s outsized personality is
barely in evidence.

This isn’t the first time that Gilliam, the director with the oddest combination of sensibilities, has signed off on a
movie that’s satisfying but not particularly memorable (
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen was another).  But
in Gilliam’s case the bar – after
Brazil – has been raised very high.  Perhaps one expects too much from a director
that has succeeded – and failed – so spectacularly.

The Brothers Grimm is certainly worth seeing on the big screen – this is not one to wait for the DVD to check out –
the epic sweep makes sure of that – but it’s not a Saturday night film, either.  Rather, it’s a perfect Sunday matinee
where an audience of older children and childlike adults (yours truly included) will quickly fall under its spell.


Someday John Leguizamo is going to find a role that can show off the enormous talent he has shown in his solo
shows.  His outsize gift for finding comedy in the most tragic of circumstances is truly revelatory, as is his eerie
ability to tap into the female psyche.  The small independent thriller
Crónicas, in which Leguizamo plays a
hustling tabloid reporter, a spiritual cousin to Geraldo Rivera, isn’t the role either, but it displays his serious side in
ways that few of his big budget films have.

Leguizamo’s character Manolo works for a sleazy Miami based tabloid TV show as a correspondent.  He’s on
assignment in Ecuador with his cameraman Ivan and Marisa, his female producer (the tough but lovely Leonor
Watling who was a standout in the lesbian comedy
My Mother Likes Women).  Marisa is also the wife of the star of
the show (Alfred Molina who’s briefly glimpsed).  They’re like television versions of war mercenaries and they
have no qualms about getting in and getting out fast with their story intact and people’s lives ruined along the

Though the trio’s supposed to be in Ecuador to meet with the head of a drug cartel, they stumble on the track of a
brutal serial killer of children.  Manolo thinks he’s found either the real killer or information on his identity and
naturally, his ego and quest for stardom bring about tragic consequences.  At every turn, the desperate poverty of
Ecuador is forgotten in the blaze of the TV lights and seemingly all rules and morals are tossed aside for a chance
to momentarily get on the idiot box.  This is a thought provoking first effort from writer-director Sebastián Cordero
with a chilling ending.
Terry Gilliam in Fairyland, John Leguizamo in Geraldo Rivera drag