Terry Gilliam, the only American member of the legendary Monty Python comedy troupe, likes to create new worlds—places in which the real and the unreal co-exist comfortably. Rent Brazil, 12 Monkeys or The Fisher King and you’ll find fact and fantasy bashing heads, each struggling to stake their territory in the story’s plot. In his first film in seven years, The Brothers Grimm, he walks the same path.
Played by Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, Will and Jake Grimm are 18th century Ghostbusters, a pair of charlatans who bilk simple country folk out of their money by conducting phony exorcisms of ghosts and demons. Their days as con men come to an abrupt end when they are captured by Napoleon’s Army and sentenced to death. Instead of facing a gruesome execution they agree to rid the forest in a nearby town of its evil spirits. Faced with real supernatural forces their brand of ghostbusting is put to the test.
The script is a mix-and-match pastiche of classic fables such as Jack and the Bean Stalk, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Rapunzel, and while it doesn’t always work—Matt Damon’s accent comes and goes with the frequency of a shuttle bus and why hire someone as beautiful as Monica Bellucci and then cover her with zombie makeup for most of the film—but Gilliam’s sense of wonder and playfulness seeps through and makes The Brothers Grimm a welcome change from the bland remakes and sequels that have cluttered up the multi-plexes this summer.