Movie Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)

Credit, in some form, has to be given to Terry Gilliam for actually getting his much anticipated The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus completed. Anticipated, not necessarily because the world needed another Time Bandits or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen type movie but because Heath Ledger, the film’s lead died halfway through filming.

I’m not sure that is the reason the movie is so disjointed, however, but I’m sure it didn’t help out the situation any.

And here is the situation. Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) eons ago made a deal with the devil (Tom Waits). He gets immortality, Satan gets his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) when she turns the tender age of 16. As her birthday nears, the devil in all his mischievous and conniving ways tenders another deal to Parnassus — whomever gets five souls first in two days is awarded the rights to Valentina’s soul. So armed with his travelling Imaginarium and trusted devotees Percy (Verne Troyer), Anton (Andrew Garfield) and Valentina, he sets off to win his daughter back.

Enter Tony (Heath Ledger), a man saved from a hanging by the troupe. He’s outgoing and handsome and under his care the dilapidated sideshow act gets a well needed facelift. Souls trickle in. Satan isn’t happy. Tony’s past comes a knockin’ and to escape it, he thrusts himself into the mirror that is the gateway to fantasyland. In this world, the inventive and bizarre mind of Gilliam takes root. But just like the fanciful animations from his Monty Python days, the elements of Gilliam’s fantasy world are hit and miss. That being said, the scenes within are the most entertaining and eventful of the movie — the time leading up to these excursions can be a tad monotonous and confusing.

A lot has been said about how good Ledger’s final performance would be in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus since his immersion into the Joker’s skin in The Dark Knight was so frightfully complete. Well, I’m here to report, to the chagrin of many Ledger fans, that there isn’t anything special to take note of. His character is boisterous and semi-interesting, but I’m certain this characterization wouldn’t have been his choice for his final bow. The work by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell to fill in for Ledger is commendable too — each bring their own flair as Tony when in the Imaginarium — but their scenes feel like the add-ins and rewrites to the film that they are; something is missing to congeal them to the whole.

Even with those scenes omitted and/or having the blessing of Ledger acting throughout the entire film, I get a distinct feeling The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus would have ended up in roughly the same position — halfway decent. Gilliam has given us an imaginative film that, for the most part, is easily forgotten. Too bad Ledger’s last wasn’t his finest.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
3 Star Rating: Average


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The Critical Movie Critics

I'm an old, miserable fart set in his ways. Some of the things that bring a smile to my face are (in no particular order): Teenage back acne, the rain on my face, long walks on the beach and redneck women named Francis. Oh yeah, I like to watch and criticize movies.

'Movie Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)' have 8 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 6, 2010 @ 11:05 am Mark

    You’ll definitely enjoy the movie at first, but after few minutes it will be too boring for you to watch the whole movie. I don’t know, maybe it’s the director’s taste that need to apply on all of his movies that gives a sort of negative score for the whole film.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 7, 2010 @ 6:52 am Rose Taylor

    You have given good review of ‘The imaginarium of doctor parnassus’.This seems interesting to watch this movie and after reading this review I would like to watch it.Thanks for this post.

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 30, 2010 @ 10:34 pm John De Vera

    Exciting start for the movie,which eventually lead to a boring plot. They should have made the overall movie much appealing than what they have done.

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    February 7, 2010 @ 4:43 pm Jessie Jacob

    Yeah, I agree. It’s a totally boring movie. Much better if they make it more interesting from start to end.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 5, 2010 @ 5:00 am Gephardt

    I never got to see the ending of this movie because half way in the movie I decided nothing can happen to make me wanna see the ending so I changed the DVD and watched Fight Club (for the 8th time). So it’s pretty obvious how much I liked it if I watched a movie I already saw so many times before. Still, some people might find this movie interesting. They might focus on the psychological aspect.

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 30, 2010 @ 5:23 pm Heroin Help

    This is Terry Gilliam’s dark masterpiece. This is a brilliant film, with surrealistic and fabulous visual effects, stunning performances and gorgeous cinematography. The entire movie is filled with twists and turns that will keep your heart pounding until the very last scene. Great movie!

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    June 29, 2010 @ 4:57 pm Palm Beach

    I love Terry Gilliam movies – this one is no exception. I feel bad when people say this moving was “boring” .It’s cerebral, symbolic and very entertaining to watch.. .it doesn’t always have to be about non-stop blood and action….. I thought it was well done. I say it with a friend and had to leave and miss the last 30 min.. so I look forward to seeing what happened.

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 17, 2010 @ 2:29 pm Infant Snowsuit

    That’s quite a cast of decent actors. Maybe this movie could have been a lot better with the Heath Ledger scenes.

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