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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2005 10:00 pm

Grimm's phony tales

Did Terry Gilliam direct this fantasy in his sleep?

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The Brothers Grimm

Fairy tales can come true — just ask Will (Matt Damon) and Jacob (Heath Ledger) Grimm. Terry Gilliam’s fictional rendering of the famed brothers presents them as traveling con artists who set up phony hauntings and then offer their services as ghostbusters. In reality, the brothers were collectors of folklore who are often credited with stories they didn’t actually write, so Gilliam’s characterization may not be far off the mark.

When they’re forced to rid a haunted forest of an evil witch (Monica Bellucci), Will and Jake learn the hard way that pretending to be experts can be a big mistake. Damon and Ledger are cast against type, but both seem well suited to the roles of incompetent klutzes in way over their heads. The deadly serious spirits are in sharp contrast to the comical human villains, Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce) and Cavaldi (Peter Stormare), who force the brothers to confront the real demons. Stormare, who is best known for putting Steve Buscemi through a wood chipper in Fargo, is hilariously flamboyant, and he easily steals the film.

Gilliam (Brazil, Twelve Monkeys) can direct this sort of movie in his sleep, and that may have been his condition while making this film. As the creation of any other director, The Brothers Grimm would be considered a fine work, but more of Gilliam’s combustible craziness would have been welcome. Gilliam, however, may have had a bit more on his mind than is readily apparent. The brothers can seen as precursors to modern filmmakers in the way they stage their shows, and the phony hauntings may be metaphorical representations of conspiracy theories from the Kennedy assassination to 9/11. What we see may not necessarily be the reality. The Brothers Grimm, ultimately, is a solid fantasy film made for an adult audience.

Also in theaters this week. . .

The Cave [PG-13] Claustrophobic, anyone? A pack of divers get trapped in a group of underwater caves where bottom dwellers are waiting. ShowPlace West

The 40 Year-Old Virgin [R] Nerdy electronic store employee, Andy Stitzer is a virgin, a 40 year-old virgin. When his friends find out, they set out on a hilarious quest that hits a road bump when Stitzer falls in love. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

The Great Raid This World War II film depicts the story of a group of Rangers who set out on a mission to save 500 POWs from a camp they’ve been held at for three years. Parkway Pointe

Ladies in Lavender [PG-13] Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are two sisters whose lives change when they take in a young violinist. Parkway Pointe

Undiscovered [PG-13] A group of out-of-work actors try and make it in the biz. Parkway Pointe

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