Gilliam, Gilliam, lama sabacthani?
I likes me men like I liked The Brothers Grimm: broad, and stupid.

Ok, that's a lie, I don't really like men like that. But hey, I didn't really like The Brothers Grimm (TBG) either.

One problem was that, as a matter of personal taste, I only like epic-flavored action movies. In a comedy I'm totally fine with the Brave Little Tailor (and I'd kind of like to see that, actually, possibly with Roberto Bennini). Kung Fu Hustle was one of my favorite films in forever, and that had an awful lot of broad stupidity. It was funny.

I don't think that action movies should be dumb, though. I don't want Barney Fife, I want Beowulf. I'll settle for Léon. Hell, I'm perfectly happy with Neo and, if necessary, I'll put up with Constantine. I watch action movies so that I can be swept away in the glamour and awe and spectacle. I want to be uplifted and, if I find myself vicariously taking part in the story, I want it to be a story about a really cool person. TBG is about a pair of bumbling con artists. They aren't especially funny (although Matt Affleck sounded so much like Eddie Izzard throughout the film that I kept expecting it to be) and they certainly aren't Epic Heroes. As I say, that's a matter of personal taste. Perhaps there are many people who enjoy watching incompetence writ large on the big screen.

When I say that it was broad, I mean that the Orthodox community can never watch this film, there was that much ham. Good for the Orthodox community. Sometimes I like this sort of thing--Pirates of the Caribbean was not without a certain... exuberance. I wouldn't have minded the woman playing the "Crazy Hag" giving it her all, but it was every single character, even the French / Italian assassin. Ok, especially the French / Italian assassin. Peter Stormare, what on earth were you doing? I found this all embarrassing and very, very grating.

From a feminist perspective... well, Angelika is the "cursed tracker" (5th level D&D ranger). She is badass, she's the only one who knows how the forest works, and the only one who keeps her head and leads the Brothers. She goes toe-to-toe with the Evil Werewolf, armed only with bow and arrow, and then only with machete. She takes care of herself and takes no shit.

There about fifteen minutes of that, and then it's like, "Ok feminists, are you satisfied?". She never holds a weapon again (not counting a scythe in one scene Oh, and she gets to hold the magic axe and save the Brothers. That was nice, except that she is immediately kidnapped.). Instead, she turns into the Comforting Maternal Voice as she kneels before the Hero and helps him to understand his feelings. Then she spends a long time getting leered at and bound up by the French / Italian assassin, who ultimately leads her around on a leash. Finally, she is kidnapped, and rescued with a kiss from Brother Jake. Then the other brother tricks her into kissing him and rolling around on the ground in a "ha ha, isn't sexual harassment funny" scene. The final note hints at polyamory, which is nice, but also strongly implies that she has redeemed herself and can be accepted as a woman again by the town. She's wearing a dress for the first time, dancing in a circle. Hooray! She no longer has to be a tomboy, she can assume her proper place as wife and mother!

Finally, the movie is fairly stupid. The plot is simple in the extreme, although overly baroque in the telling. People act foolishly or irrationally throughout. The bad guys are French because, hey, French are evil and silly. Chief Bad Guy's last line, after being stabbed to death? "A plate of quiche would be nice". WTF WTF WTF? 'Cause quiche is so funny?? The movie is full of cheap scares, which I loathe. For example, when Brother Jake explores the creepy, creepy tower, suddenly a crow flies right at him!!! Everyone jumps, how silly. Five minutes later, it happens again. Five minutes after than, another crow jumps out of the darkness, and everyone jumps again. Wow, that's great writing there, really good stuff. I was not at all surprised to learn that the movie was written by the author of The Ring and its sequel(s).

Finally, the bottom line is this: They throw a kitten into a blender at one point in the movie. No, I'm not being metaphorical, there is a scene where the French / Italian buffoon kicks a kitten into a whirling blade and it gets chopped up. Now I'm not saying I'll never watch a movie in which kittens die. Kung Fu Hustle, again one of my favorite movies recently, has a memorable scene in which a cat is sliced up. However, I do think that any such movie does not, does not, deserve the benefit of the doubt. A really fun movie like Kung Fu Hustle can get away with it, and this movie would have been pretty bad even without it. Up to that point, though, I was all, "Well, I should give it a chance, maybe it will be ok", and after that was was all, "No. The second half of this movie had better be damn good to make up for that." Needless to say, it wasn't even close.

Alexis Farmer2008-10-14
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