A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the film includes some scenes in the dark woods that might be frightening for younger viewers. The brothers argue and sometimes fight physically. Characters drink and behave boisterously (it's 19th-century rural Germany). Language includes German and French versions of "s--t" as well as some slang for "breasts." The brothers' investigation centers on kidnapped girls, producing spooky, sometimes violent images (in particular, a girl is whisked into a well by a black blob and a horse eats a child, in silhouette). Creatures in the forest include tree roots that grab at passers-by and a gigantic wolf. A powerful witch looks alternately ancient and beautiful, casting spells and wreaking havoc.
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What's the story?
Wilhelm (Matt Damon) and Jacob Grimm (Heath Ledger) see the world differently: Will is skeptical, Jake more romantic. But they're partners as con artists, purporting to banish ghosts and witches for money, rigging "scenes" with theatrical tricks (ropes, mirrors, pulleys, costumes) so their peasant clients believe their money is well-spent. The brothers begin to question their career and other choices when they come on what appears a real curse, the disappearance of 10 girls into the Marbaden forest in French-occupied Germany.
Is it any good?
The brothers' initial journey is suitably spooky: trees' roots grab at them, a giant wolf shadows them, and a cursed horse literally gulps down a child. The fact that the very land is rising up against invaders is of a piece with the film's thematic interest in occupation, of bodies as well as locations. They eventually do battle with the powerful Mirror Queen (Monica Bellucci), by putting their props to practical use.
Sometimes clever, mostly discombobulated, THE BROTHERS GRIMM re-conceives the lives of the storytellers in order to ponder the very nature of storytelling. The film is most effective as an antic meditation on storytelling, a favorite theme of director Terry Gilliam. Ehren Kruger's script teases together any number of references to the Grimm's tales, some obvious fits, more often weird. As he prepares Jake to confront the Queen, with the homemade armor that's not really magic ("It's just shiny," he confesses), Will worries, "Nothing makes sense here, it's like being inside Jake's head." But the broader sense lies in The Brothers Grimm's connections between politics and storytelling, showmanship and survival.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the brothers' complicated and changing relationship. How do they represent two positions on magic and faith? How does their relationship form a ground for the plot, as they deal with surprising tests of their beliefs systems? How does Angelika serve simultaneously as romantic object and intrepid adventurer?