The Brothers Grimm
Mr. Terry Gilliam and his sometime writing partner Tony Grisoni (Tideland, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) take an unusual credit for The Brothers Grimm Dress pattern makers.
This would be a coy reference to the fact that the Writers' Guild has allocated sole script credit to the prolific Ehren Kruger (The Ring; Scream 3; The Skeleton Key; Arlington Road), who wrote the original screenplay. Presumably Messrs Gilliam and Grisoni feel this does not reflect the extent of their subsequent work on the film - a historical fantasy about the famous fairytale-tellers (Jake and Will in this version, played by the oddly English-accented Heath Ledger and Matt Damon) touring mittel-Europa scamming superstitious peasants by exorcising non-existent spooks.
Whoever wrote the script, it's a bit of a dog's breakfast. And from what one can deduce, the film editor, Lesley Walker, probably deserves a story credit too. 'Patchwork quilt maker', perhaps? Then there are 11 men (all men) credited as producer and/or associate/executive producer, most notably Harvey and Bob Weinstein, once upon a time of Miramax, the company that bankrolled Brothers Grimm to the tune of $80 million or more.
It was Harvey Weinstein who refused to allow Gilliam to cast Samantha Morton in the movie - insisting on Lena Headey instead. ('He said Sam will win an Oscar one day and she will win it in a Miramax movie - but it won't be in this one,' Morton lamented to me a couple of years ago.) And it was Harvey Weinstein who fired Gilliam's favourite DP, Nicola Pecorini half way through the shoot, replacing him with Newton Thomas Sigel. ('I prepped it, started it, and then they decided it was a bad thing that Gilliam was shooting the movie the way Gilliam wanted to shoot the movie,' Pecorini explained to me on the set of Tideland last year. 'Of course he shot it his way anyway.')
The last time I spoke with Terry Gilliam he wasn't saying much about all this - he was contractually bound to keep his mouth shut, and anyway was still hoping to get his cut of the movie out in the cinemas. But he did say that the pressure to deliver an audience on such a big budget movie (his most expensive by far) was always on his mind.
That audience hasn't turned out for Brothers Grimm in the US, although its $37 million gross to date may be enough for the studio to break even down the line.
Watching the movie, it is easy to blame Miramax for a story that never quite makes sense and a tone that oscillates between horror, suspense, and knockabout Python-esque comedy. But the truth is that Terry Gilliam's strengths have never been for story structure or a consistent tone. He's anarchic by nature, and all his movies reflect that. Including this one.
There are wonderful things in this film: dark woods that creep up on you; kittens thrown into torture devices; a couple of phantastic transformation scenes which have to be seen to be believed (not to mention several good actors making completes asses of themselves) It's literate and intriguing and full of inventive bits and pieces. But it never gels. It's by no means as funny as it wants to be, rarely scary, and the jerryrigged climax is a damp squib. I hate to say it, but I didn't like the way Gilliam shot the movie either: too much wide angle whackiness becomes grueling after a while.
It might be that on another day, watching it at home after a beer, the movie's virtues will outweigh its vices. Who knows, maybe there is a leaner, crisper, more coherent director's cut lurking in here somewhere. But I have to say I doubt it.