In the early part of the 19th century, the Brothers Grimm—Wilhelm and Jacob—are known far and wide for their heroic ventures that help rid small German towns of creepy enchantments and all things witchlike. The only thing is, the witches they dispatch aren't real. Neither are the ghosts they banish. Unbeknownst to the superstitious public, their traveling sideshow is nothing but a scam.
So when the brothers are forced by French soldiers (who now occupy Germany) to find out why a certain village’s children are disappearing, the scheming Will prepares for yet another staged production. But after stumbling upon the real deal, younger brother Jacob, who’s been obsessed with mystical folklore his entire life, is convinced they’re no longer meddling with the make-believe. Turns out an evil queen has cast a spell on the place and needs the blood of 12 young women to re-inject youthful beauty into her immortal—but now decayed—body. For once, the Grimm brothers really do have to save the day.
In this dark world of enchanted forests, cursed queens, wicked witches and spell-cast princes, magic reigns supreme. Crosses and crucifixes are seen throughout the movie either as background decor or as props used to ward off evil, but they hold little power against these mystical surroundings. That doesn't stop Will from exploiting Christian lingo. Once, he proclaims, "You have nothing to fear now; your salvation is at hand." Several people talk about or place curses on others. Will explains that “when you burn a witch, her soul burns eternally.”
The evil queen is seen casting spells and manipulating the laws of nature. She extinguishes a forest fire with her breath. It's implied that the trees move and attack at her bidding. Said to be thousands of years old, she has already been "blessed" with eternal life, but because she hasn't yet achieved eternal youth, her body is that of a corpse. In her attempt to regain youthfulness, she drinks the blood of the 12 captured girls.
It’s said that the enchanted forest, once known as sacred land, was taken over by a Christian king who, along with other Christian invaders, burned its inhabitants at the stake. When the brothers’ actors/employees ask to be paid more, Will rebuts them by telling them they already get a tenth of all earnings, “just like God.” A beggar says, “God bless you” repeatedly when Will gives him a coin. A priest makes the sign of the cross.
One other spiritual element worth noting is Will's worldview. In his words, life is nothing more than a "short, bitter struggle, and then you die." What gets him up in the morning? He says it’s the "little subterfuges that make it all worthwhile."
The queen lures Jacob into her world, where she uses a conjured—sexy—vision of herself to seduce him. She hovers close to his face and whispers into his ear, “I want to make your dreams come true.” She wears gowns that reveal quite of bit of her breasts. (Angelika also shows a little cleavage.) Will invites two women up into his room and makes a risqué play on words. The trio are later shown waking up in bed together (completely clothed). A reference is made to gay sex. Jacob and Will both share kisses with Angelika on a couple of occasions.
More violence and gore than one would suspect considering the supposed “fairy-tale” surroundings of this movie. A man is graphically impaled with a sharp stick after a swordfight that includes him getting struck with a blazing cross. A French general shoots two of his own soldiers and turns the gun on his trusted but bumbling henchman, Cavaldi. An assistant gets struck by an axe in the back.
A man is dragged away and "eaten" by the enchanted forest’s trees, which then spit out his torso, showing the remaining bloodied bones and flesh. A ghoulish flying witch is shot with an arrow. A couple of men get a stake driven into their hearts (the bloody spike penetrates and is pulled out more than once). A small sword pierces another man’s chest, and blood oozes out. Several punches, slaps and body blows are exchanged. Horses fall, drag men while running away and have their tails set on fire.
Cavaldi frequently manhandles Angelika and the brothers. Worse, he's renowned as a merciless torturer and takes great pride in inventing new ways to torment his prisoners. Several scenes show men bound, gagged and hanging while being whipped. A couple of the brothers’ comrades are tied up, their heads encased in glass boxes containing snails, and lowered into a boiling cauldron. A massive grinder threatens to churn up a woman but instead mutilates a kitten. (Feline gore lands on the face of a French general, who tastes it and comments on the flavor.)
Angelika shows her tough side by skinning, draining the blood from and gutting a hanging rabbit (all onscreen). The rotting corpse of the enchanted queen is seen throughout the movie. Crows pick at her remains, while bugs crawl around her body. A woman literally explodes into pieces. A man raises up two decapitated heads.
As disturbing as the combat, torture and grisly sights are depictions of child abductions. A dark blob of a beast emerges from a well and erases the face of a girl (her eyeballs and mouth then appear on this nightmarish depiction of the Gingerbread Man). A possessed horse engulfs a child with a web-like substance and then swallows her whole. (The camera zooms in as she slips down the horse’s throat.) A girl wearing a red riding hood is pounced on by a snarling wolf (off-camera), and another girl named Gretel is supposedly attacked by a hatchet-bearing ogre.
A forest is set ablaze with people in it, and a cannon is fired to add to the spectacular explosions. A tower crumbles.
Drug and Alcohol Content
In a pub, Jacob gets drunk after celebrating another “enchanted eviction” and announces to everyone that he can’t hold his ale. Others are shown drinking throughout the scene. Will offers French soldiers a bottle of wine (that actually contains urine).
Other Negative Elements
As con men, Will and Jacob Grimm obviously lie about what they do. Though impressive in its special effects (especially for that time), their traveling circus of sorts is about one thing: scamming people out of their money.
After observing a grotesque scene, two men comment about “soiling” themselves. In separate scenes, Will and Angelika both lick a frog, asking it to guide them out of the forest in exchange for the "kiss."
Once upon a time... It’s how just about every children’s fairy-tale—and this movie—begins. But don’t confuse the two. The Brothers Grimm may have written unforgettable, imaginative stories that have mesmerized kids for centuries, but The Brothers Grimm is definitely not for children. More horror than adventure, the movie depicts a scary, spooky world filled with evil spirits, horrifying beasts, enchanted beings and sinister spells.
Beneath the shadows, The Brothers Grimm revels in a script full of “inside” jokes and clever plays on words. (You already knew this isn't a biography of the real Grimms, right?!) It even offers a few lighthearted, laughable moments. Snippets of the Grimm’s timeless fables of Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel and others are woven throughout. Still, most of those elements get tangled up or lost in this visually enthralling yet ominous environment.
Think about what it would look like to add five or six layers of darkness and spiritual confusion to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and you get an idea of how grim Grimm is.