The Brothers Grimm Review (Blu-ray)

The Brothers Grimm is one of five titles included in Buena Vista’s second wave of Blu-ray Disc releases and provides visually dynamic, albeit severely overrated source material for the studio to improve upon its first batch of relatively solid high definition titles. Having passed on the film both theatrically and on standard DVD, an extra hint of excitement surrounded my viewing at the prospect of Heath Ledger and Matt Damon pulling off some fantastical high-def entertainment.

Screenwriter Ehren Kruger sought to create a complex weave of fiction and non-fiction when conceiving The Brothers Grimm by extracting famous characters from the fairy tale authors Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm works, then throwing the authors into the world of their own creations. Heath and Matt play the authors with more Americanized names of Jake and Will who have been turned into con artists that use the fear of mythical creatures from their works to scare small villages, then show up to exterminate the fabricated ghoulies with dramatized exorcisms. The brothers are forced to face the realization their works are anything but fictional when their scam is rooted out by a local king’s enforcer and they are tossed into a real-life battle with enchanted creatures with lives at stake.

Heath and Matt play the brothers as sarcastic, bumbling comedians floundering through life with their robbed riches and the booze and women it allows them to buy. When thrown into the haunted forest and forced to go up against demonic trees, a shape-shifting wolf and voluptuous evil queen trapped in an old tower’s mirror (Monica Belluci), lighthearted brotherly comedy is overridden by terrifying imagery, including the kidnapping and impending deaths of Little Red Riding Hood and Gretel of Hansel & Gretel.

This mix of comedy and doom worked in Ghostbusters thanks to the genius of Bill Murray and the rest of the cast. In The Brothers Grimm, Heath and Matt are never quite funny enough to draw out-loud laughs, and then the violence is far too over the top for a film based on kid friendly fairy tales. I know I wouldn’t want my kid to be happy to identify Little Red Riding Hood trotting through the wood, then be emotionally scarred by watching a cat get chopped up by a giant drill bit, with a king catching a piece of cat flesh on his face that he sees fit to stick in his mouth. Ultimately, Gilliam should have chosen to either go all-out adult with an R-rating or a massive assault on the funny bone geared towards all ages.

Gilliam’s scattered vision for The Brothers Grimm offers a difficult visual challenge for this Blu-ray Disc to handle. The Grimm brothers travel through dimly lit and rainy villages one day, only to find themselves amongst the intricate and colorful outfits of the king’s men the next. There are infinite situations for contrast and detail to fail – especially during many dark scenes. Aside from one eyesore instance of macro-blocking in the night sky, they don’t. Utilizing the newer and videophile-preferred AVC compression codec, Disney has masterfully recreated what must have been a pristine original print onto this release. This 1080p transfer will stand strong against the best VC-1 encodes both Warner and Paramount have released to-date.

Buena Vista offers uncompressed PCM 5.1 on The Brothers Grimm that unlike the story will knock anyone off their feet. Thunderous bass and screeching surrounds aid the haunting effect of any encounters with evil enchanted creatures. The best example is the Brothers introduction as creature exterminators when they go head-to-head against a fake flying witch-like baddie. The witch flies around the room and took me with her through completely enveloping surround use, then rocked the house with thumping and slamming noises fit to make a subwoofer bust out a smile. Anyone who ever doubted a soundtrack could rock without explosion bombardments needs to look no further for proof of the contrary.

Aside from newly created Blu-scape short high definition films, Buena Vista has taken a minimalist to extra features on their Blu-ray releases and The Brothers Grimm is no exception. Non-anamorphic extras include 12 Deleted Scenes totaling almost exactly 15 minutes of footage. Most of the cuts I welcome as the film dragged enough as it were, but additional scenes of the Grimm boys as maids that would up here is something I would have loved to have seen in the final cut. Also included is Visual Magic of The Brother Grimm for visual effects fans interested in seeing how many of the CGI elements were integrated into live-action footage, and yet another Audio Commentary that surpasses the film its attached to in entertainment value, this time with chatterbox Director Terry Gilliam.

I applaud the creative minds behind “The Brothers Grimm” for thinking outside the box, but the capricious execution is a “grimm” reminder of what’s written on the page doesn’t always cleanly translate to the screen. On that note of cleanliness, Buena Vista has given this sub-par film I had lofty expectations for a shimmering red carpet high definition presentation that by itself is worth checking out, if only for one tiresome viewing.

– Dan Bradley

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