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Film / The Brothers Grimm

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And you thought they were just preservationists...

The Brothers Grimm (2005) is a fantasy-comedy film by Terry Gilliam, starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm, a pair of con artists who claim to be able to exorcise hostile spirits. In addition, they write fanciful tales of their exploits, which viewers may recognize as early drafts of familiar Grimm fairy tales.

A wrench is thrown in their familiar plans when, passing through a small town in French-occupied Germany, they are charged with solving a mystery there. While the townsfolk believe supernatural forces are at work, their employer believes the disappearances to be the work of con artists like the Grimms themselves. What the brothers find is far darker than any con they have ever pulled off, and unraveling the curse will require true bravery rather than their usual theatrics.

Also stars Monica Bellucci, Lena Headey and Jonathan Pryce. Has practically nothing to do with the real Brothers Grimm or the Cinerama film The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, which stars Laurence Harvey and Russ Tamblyn.

The Brothers Grimm provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Angelika who, for most of the movie, is better suited for fighting monsters than the brothers.
  • Agent Mulder: Jakob, who does recognize that they might be dealing with something real faster than his brother.
  • Agent Scully:
    • Will takes a long time to be convinced that the supernatural is real.
    • General Delatombe is actually a parody of this trope. He clearly thinks of himself as a rational, down-to-earth man and tries to act like one, but over time, it becomes glaringly obvious that in reality, he is flat-out insane. Ironically, the very fact that he refuses to acknowledge the existence of supernatural even in face of obvious evidence (like magical wind putting out the forest fire and scattering his troops or tree root trying to ensnare his leg) and is totally fixated on killing the Grimm brothers in spite of all weird stuff happening around him is what indicates that he is not right in his head.
  • Age Without Youth: A central plot point. The queen gained immortality to protect herself from plague, but she forgot that eternal life does not necessarily entail eternal youth. Thus, she ended up indefinitely prolonged, but still aging. So now, she tries to kidnap twelve young girls and use them as a sacrifice in a ritual to revitalize herself, a project the aforementioned Grimms are eager to stop. When Jakob finds out and warns Will that the Queen is still alive and in the tower:
    Will: (incredulous) What, for five hundred years?
    Jakob: Yeah, but they haven't been kind, I can tell you that, Will!
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Invoked in the climax by Will, who begs Delatombe (on his own insistence, no less) for mercy... only to use distraction thus caused to suddenly throw a burning crucifix at him. And then exploit resulting opening to quickly stab him with a broken pole.
  • And I Must Scream: On one side of the coin, there's the results of the face stealing, namely children with blanks for faces. On the other, it appears that the Sorceress will be trapped in the shards of her broken mirror until she gets herself out (unlikely) or someone gets her out (really unlikely). Oh, and she's immortal, so even dying of old age isn't an option.
  • Anti-Villain: The Woodsman, Angelika's missing father, is Brainwashed and Crazy by the Queen.
  • Ax-Crazy: General Delatombe is a downplayed example, but still, he seems to get too much joy from hurting and killing others and nothing — not even freaky stuff happening right in front of his eyes — can draw away his attention from brutally murdering someone.
  • Bad Boss: Delatombe inspires little loyalty in his people and shoots several of them for trying to run away once they've seen proof that he was wrong about the cause of things.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The brothers find genuine inspirations for their fanciful tales during the events of the movie.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Angelika's sisters were aomong those taken, with that playing a large role in her involvement in the story.
  • The Blank: In the Gingerbread Man sequence, Sasha briefly loses her facial features, after the Queen's crow covers her in mud.
  • Boomerang Comeback: Jakob throws the magic axe at the general's aide-de-camp and miss... only to have him killed by the return.
  • Bound and Gagged: Happens to Angelika.
  • Bring My Brown Pants:
    Brunst: (after seeing Sasha get eaten by a mud creature) I... I do believe I've soiled myself.
    Hidlick: Oh, good... I thought it was me.
  • Cassandra Truth: When the brothers find genuine monsters in the woods, the French General doesn't believe them anymore.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Inverted, as the film takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, in the recently-conquered Kingdom of Westphalia. On the DVD commentary, Terry Gilliam said he felt it was important to remind people that, once upon a time, it was the French who occupied Germany, and not the other way around.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The mirror armors that the Grimms wear only for show end up saving Cavaldi's life, who wears one under his clothes when Delatombe shoots him. Also Will's fake flaming crucifix, which allows him to distract Delatombe long enough to disarm and kill him.
  • Creepy Crows: The Mirror Queen's minions.
  • Dance Party Ending: An early-19th century peasant version. After the defeat of the evil queen, the whole village throws an impromptu festival in celebration, complete with traditional dancing, and the protagonists all join in.
  • Disappeared Dad: Angelika's father was killed by wolves. Actually he's the Woodsman and he can turn into a wolf.
  • Doomsayer: The old village woman resembling a stereotypical witch.
  • Happily Ever After: Exact words used in the closing text... but since the Mirror Queen turns out to still be alive in those shards, it then admits, "... well, maybe not."
  • Heel–Face Turn: After witnessing supernatural events firsthand with the Grimms, Cavaldi starts siding with the Grimms, ultimately choosing not to kill them upon the general's orders.
  • Hellish Horse: The spiderweb horse.
  • Horror Struck: William and Jacob made their fame setting up fake apparitions and ghosts and getting paid for "exorcizing" them. Personality-wise, William is the more rational of the duo, while Jacob is the bookish Mr. Imagination. When they go to the village, William discovers just how real magic can be.
  • Hot Witch: The Mirror Queen.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: For all of their stupidity, Hidlick and Bunst do a lot more of the work for the Monster Protection Racket than the Grimm's (something they lampshade) putting on length, complicated performances as mounters involving complex costumes before the brothers ever arrive in town, and helping a lot with the pulleys and other gadgets they use. The brothers, in contrast, just show up for a few hours, looking pretty and pretending to shoot something. the fact that they only get paid 1/10th of the profits leaves Bunst and Hidlick fairly peeved.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Cavaldi's reaction to his courage being questioned.
    Cavaldi: The Great Cavaldi never panics.
    He Sees a small fluffy cat nuzzle his leg.
    Cavaldi: AHHHHHHHHHH!
  • Just a Stupid Accent: Cavaldi and General Delatombe. They are Italian and French respectively, in case you didn't know.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: When the Woodsman throws the Queen's Magic Mirror out of the window, she screams "Who's the fairest of them — !"
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: Sasha is a girl, but is mistaken by a boy by the brothers until her father indignantly snaps that the "strapping young lad is my daughter!" See Sweet Polly Oliver.
  • Love Makes You Evil: The Woodsman says he's in love with the Queen when asked. He's not, it's brainwashing.
  • Monster Protection Racket: The brothers (along with Hidlick and Bunst) at first, using legerdemain and stage tricks to simulate monster attacks. Later on, they use those same tricks to fight real supernatural menaces.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Delatombe's manservant is a foppish figure, but he is able to effectively fight against Jacob in the climax.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Will has never let Jakob forget how he sold the family cow for allegedly magic beans instead of medicine for their sister as a boy, and he uses it to call out his brother's Agent Mulder tendencies.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: A giant wolf is seen roaming the forest around the village. The animal is actually the Woodsman, Angelika's father.
  • Papa Wolf: It happens too late to save him but soon after the spell on the Woodsman breaks:
    "Angelika... (turns to the Queen's mirror) You killed my daughters!! (grabs large piece of mirror) YOU MUST DIE!!!"
  • Pocket Protector: The flashy, mirror armor that the Grimms wear as part of their con saves Cavaldi's life.
  • Polyamory: Angelika, ever the pragmatist, decides there are more important things to do than to choose a brother for her Love Interest. The story never advocates one over the other, and at the end of the film she goes off with both of them.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: The Woodsman's axe, which he can also summon back to his hand. Justified, since it's enchanted.
  • Primal Fear: The scene with the spiderweb horse.
  • Properly Paranoid: When the brothers first arrive, the townspeople are holed up inside their houses, sticking out guns and surround them initially. Considering the scope of the threat against them, it's somewhat justified (albeit ineffective against the queen).
  • Public Domain Character: Lots of them, referred to in oblique ways.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Played with. The Vain Sorceress cast a spell of eternal life on herself, not realizing that it would not keep her young and beautiful forever. Fortunately for her, she has a magic mirror that shows her young and beautiful self, and can use her magic to make a man look only at the reflection. She almost seduces Jakob this way, but Will tosses a rock up from below (trying to signal to his brother) and cracks the mirror, breaking the spell. The Queen is defeated in the climax by shattering the mirror completely, which shatters her as well.
  • Redemption Equals Death: The Woodsman — who turns out to be Angelika's missing father — is ditched by evil queen as soon as he's done preparing the ritual, but he manages to use his remaining strength to grab the magic mirror and jump out of the window with it, shattering it and finishing the queen off for good. Or maybe not.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Well... sort of.
    Cavaldi: Generale, I wish to resign my...
    Delatombe: [shoots him] Resignation accepted.
  • Self-Plagiarism: The "hand forest" sequence was originally written for Time Bandits and was almost used in Brazil.
  • Swallowed Whole One of the village girls - by a horse, of all things.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Used to conceal the daughters of a local village from being kidnapped by an evil sorceress. It doesn't help.
  • That Poor Cat: Literally. It gets ripped to shreds when Cavaldi kicks it into a shredder out of bad nerves.
  • The End... Or Is It?: Lampshaded. After everything is said and done, the closing narration provides the viewer with your traditional fairy tale stuff about how our heroes lived happily ever after... and then one of the queen's crows appear, carrying a shard of magic mirror, with the queen inside, apparently still alive and moving. Cue "...or maybe not".
  • Torture Technician: The Italian "torture artist", before his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Troperiffic: Especially for Fairy Tale tropes.
  • True Love's Kiss: Jakob is happy to break the enchanted sleep by giving one of these to Angelika, the woman he's been pining for the entire movie. His brother Will, meanwhile...
    Will Grimm: (Jakob goes into kiss him to wake him up — but he wakes up by himself) Not. You.
  • Twin Threesome Fantasy: Will sees a pair of twins during a party at an inn and invites one to dance, then ends up dancing and going to bed with both.
  • Vain Sorceress: Whether alive or in limbo, The Mirror Queen's world is her reflection.
  • The Vamp: The Mirror Queen again, as Will finds out the hard way.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Woodsman. Into a wolf, of course.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Once the Woodsman has helped her complete the evil ritual, the queen — seeing no further use of him and having found much younger and more handsome minion — passes the magic brooch to Will and leaves her former servant to die. It comes to bite her in the ass really quickly.