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on January 13, 2010
Are you ever in the mood for something fresh and original? Are you tired of all the safe movies designed for the masses? Well, take a trip through the mirror of Doctor Parnassus. Terry Gilliam is a love him or hate him type of director, but for some reason I'm more of in the middle. I like half or so of his films and just don't get the appeal of the others. In this case, I loved just about every second of it.

Most people know that this was Heath Ledger's last role and that he died during the filming process, but what surprised me was how much he is actually in the movie. I would say around 50% of it. His performance is really good here as expected. He totally dropped the Joker influence completely and showed us once again that we were looking at a guy who had just begun to scratch the surface of his talent. Christopher Plummer (Doctor Parnassus) and Tom Waits (Satan) both turn in equally excellent acting showcases. Even newcomer Lily Cole does a good job and is very nice to look at to boot. Verne "Mini-Me" Troyer is not the best actor in the world, but he seems to be trying hard and is given a couple of good lines. Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell fill in the gaps that Ledger could obviously not. Depp gets the least amount of time, but all three bring the right amount skill to each "tribute" version of Ledger's character. Since Ledger was able to film all the reality parts before his death, his ever changing look could easily be explained in the fantasy realm.

The visuals and music are wacky as can be, but in a good way. It's nice to see so much imagination and unique storytelling in modern cinema. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is not for everyone, but I think most who give it a shot will find themselves lost in the the mind of one stange filmmaker.
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VINE VOICEon January 11, 2010
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is first and foremost a Terry Gilliam film, which could make or break the overall experience for you. Gilliam has a very specific style that is best described as an LSD trip with a more cohesive story. His films are usually incredibly visual, are wrapped around a unique story, and above all else spectacularly weird. The one thing his films can always guarantee though is originality. Doctor Parnassus is very similar to Gilliam's The Brother's Grimm, which also starred Heath Ledger. At least as far as visuals go. So if you're not a fan of other Gilliam films like Time Bandits, Baron Manchausen, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Brothers Grimm, or Tideland among others, then it's safe to say you probably won't enjoy this film.

The other piece of information that's worth knowing going into this is to not expect much Heath Ledger. Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell were brought in for a reason. You're left wanting more, which is probably a good thing. It's not a stab at Depp, Law, or Ferrell as they all portrayed Tony pretty flawlessly. Ledger is around long enough to show potential. He has a few standout scenes and a great speech or two. Then he's gone. Out of the three actors that also played Tony, Depp did the best job. When you first see Johnny Depp as Tony, he still looks like Heath Ledger. His actions, his body language, his dialogue, it all feels like the same character. Without giving too much away, it feels as if Tony changed every time he stepped through the mirror. Well, that's not entirely true. It's more like Tony's true nature was revealed more and more with each transformation. Depp seemed to be the Tony we were first introduced to while Jude Law was the version of Tony that was swept away in Doctor Parnassus' imagination. He wanted to escape. To reach the clouds. Then there's Colin Ferrell who is the true Tony. Despite the fact that four different actors played the same character, it all still felt like the same person.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus isn't a film for everyone. It's incredibly bizarre and it takes a while for things to actually get rolling. People who see this film solely for Heath Ledger's appearance will probably be disappointed and those who aren't a fan of Gilliam's work most likely won't have their minds changed with this film. But if you're willing to give a different kind of film a chance, a film that winds up capturing your imagination, then step through the mirror and enjoy the eccentric journey to The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
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on January 17, 2010
Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is immortal. He made a deal with Mr. Nick, aka the devil (Tom Waits), that has kept him alive for over 1000 years, but at a price. Now Dr. Parnassus travels England with his daughter Valentina (Lilly Cole), Percy (Verne Troyer), and Anton (Andrew Garfield) inviting people into his Imaginarium, a place where you can peak into Dr. Parnassus's imagination where you are given a choice between light and darkness. When Mr. Nick shows up with a new challenge to collect five souls first by Valentina's birthday, Dr. Parnassus jumps at the chance. But when they save the allegedly amnesiac Tony (Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell), Dr. Parnassus wonders if Tony's been sent by the devil or his chance to right a wrong he made when he gained immortality.

Terry Gilliam is one of the most visually unique directors of all time. From classic movies like Brazil to cult classics like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the only American from the Monty Python troupe has generally bucked conventions working outside the studio system to create uniquely original works of art. As a result Gilliam is no stranger to controversy and issues with filming. Gilliam's take on Don Quixote was derailed from spectacular budget overruns, back injuries, freakish storms, and more; with the result being so catastrophic it became the subject of the 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha. But even as devastating as that was, it could never have prepared Gilliam for what befell his 2009 movie The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Filming had to be shut down when Heath Ledger died mid-production. Fortunately, Gilliam and co-writer Charles McKeown were able to rewrite partsof the film, and Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell stepped in to finish Ledger's role so the world is able to see his last performance.

The reslut is nothing short of amazing. Imaginarium represents a marked return to Gilliam's former visual style. Being the first movie that Gilliam storyboarded since 1988's The Adventures of Baron Munchasen, you can see the return of certain visuals that remind you of his directorial work with Monty Python as well as his great films like Time Bandits and Brazil. Visually this is one of Gilliam's most over the top films to date, but in the scheme of the Imaginarium it also represents his most successfully use of his visual style in years. The writing also represents one of his most original works in years, while also being one of his deeper works with more fully realized characters than has been present in his movies as of late. Also, the way they handled the passing of one of their main characters was also brilliant and possibly even serves the movie much better than expected and in the end just felt right.

The acting is naturally superb as you'd expect when you view the talent in this movie. Christopher Plummer is a veteran actor (The Philadelphia Story, Hamlet as well as newer movies such as 12 Monkeys, and voice parts in 9 and Up) you'd expect nothing less than a stellar, even Oscar worthy performance from on the screen. And, naturally, Heath Ledger was coming off an Oscar winning performance for his work as Joker in The Dark Knight and was formerly nominated for his role in Brokeback Mountain. While honoring the late Heath Ledger for this posthumously released role would seem the natural thing to do, I'd have to say that the best performances are delivered by Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell. It's hard enough to play a real person, but to step into a role taking over for an actor that passed away, who still remains in the final film is beyond daunting. These three actors take his place in the film admirably, carrying on the spirit of Ledger to the fullest. Even among these Colin Farrell rises to the top in my mind as he ends Ledger's role, having to give the toughest performance of the character.

The only problem I can say that I have with this movie is that at times the plot can be impenetrable and even incoherent at times. For all of Gilliam's strengths, he has a tendency at times to be too in the moment without looking at the full picture, and particularly early on in the movie this can be slightly problematic. At first the movie seems like a series of vignettes rather than part of the whole. You'll also be lucky if, at the end of the movie, you can fully understand what the movie is all about. I'm one of those viewers that loves a movie with replayability, but as is the case with any viewer, it can be frustrating to watch a movie and wonder if it's just your ignorance or the fault of the filmmaker that I didn't completely understand what went on. While I think I have the movie pinned after hours of contemplation, I can't honestly say that I do until I rewatch it, which will be when it comes out on DVD.

Overall, though, I would have to highly recommend this movie. Yeah, it's a mindscrew (I would use other wording, but this is a family friendly publication), but it's a fun mindscrew. Visually stunning, superbly acted, and refreshingly original this is by far Terry Gilliam's best movie in years, and if you like any of his other movies (or Monty Python) you're most likely going to love this movie.

4.5/5
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on March 13, 2010
Coming to see this with low expectations - while I admire his inventiveness, I have never been much of a Terry Gilliam fan myself, and the word from the critics was not that good - I was very pleasantly surprised with this film. This entertaining and very imaginative fantasy starts with a traveling sideshow driving in a horse-drawn wagon through the seedier parts of a contemporary (if not very realistic) London. Heading the show is a very old wizard/psychic named Dr. Parnassus (veteran Christopher Plummer in a great performance) who promises the few members of the audience interested in them that if they cross a magic mirror, they will travel to a parallel world where their deepest fantasies rule (the "imaginarium" of the title), and where they will have to make a fateful choice about whether they want to follow good or evil. The show has little success (their forays into the magic portal tends to end badly for the audience), but in time the somewhat pathetic troupe (who also includes the beautiful teenage daughter of the wizard, a midget who is the sidekick of Dr. Parnassus, and a young assistant who is madly in love with the daughter) will see a change of fortune when they find and rescue a man hanging in a London bridge (Heath Ledger in his final performance before his untimely death). The man joins the troupe and claims to be an amnesiac, but eventually it will be found that he is a crook running from Russian gangsters from whom he took money. With time, we will also learn more of the back story of Dr. Parnassus: he was a monk who made a deal with the devil (impersonated wittily by Tom Waits) centuries ago: he gets to be immortal, but in exchange, he was to give her daughter to the devil when she turns 16. So you get the idea of the sort of convoluted plot here, but let me assure you that when you see it, you will find it very entertaining and less confusing than it sounds. An intelligent and unusual film, full of intriguing ideas, and helped by the fine performances, including that of Ledger: he died before shooting ended, so in his forays into the imaginary portal he is replaced by three different actors: Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell.
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on January 5, 2014
This is not your average plot or story line. We spent half of the movie just trying to figure out what was going on. Once we did, it was entertaining with nice special effects. This film does have a certain bohemian charm that will appeal to gypsies and circus performers. It could have benefited from a stronger musical score. Overall, it's worth renting and watching at least once.
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on December 5, 2015
I picked this movie just for me and was delighted at what it turned out to be. The way they transitioned the other actors to play the part that Heath Ledger had started was marvelous. For most of the real world scenes Ledger had already filmed the scenes before he died. So the other actors playing Tony had scenes in the imaginarium. There must have been minor changes in the script to allow the character to be surprised each time he had a new face once he entered the imaginarium world. The transitions were done very well.
At the beginning of the film my husband could not see the point of the film, he didn't really see the plot. But I found it full of symbolism that I thoroughly enjoyed. The acting was excellent. I give this film five stars, I was completely entertained.
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on December 28, 2015
Are you ever in the mood for something fresh and original? Are you tired of all the safe movies designed for the masses?
Well, take a trip through the mirror of Doctor Parnassus. Terry Gilliam I like his films...

Most people know that this was Heath Ledger's last role and that he died during the filming process, but what surprised me was how much he is actually in the movie.
I would say around 50% of it.
His performance is really good here as expected. He showed us that we were looking at a guy who had just begun to scratch the surface of his talent.

Christopher Plummer (Doctor Parnassus) and Tom Waits (Satan) both turn in equally excellent acting showcases. Even newcomer Lily Cole does a good job. Verne "Mini-Me" Troyer Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell fill in the gaps that Ledger could obviously not. Depp gets the least amount of time, but all three bring the right amount skill to each "tribute" version of Ledger's character. Since Ledger was able to film all the reality parts before his death, his ever changing look could easily be explained in the fantasy realm.

I think most who give it a shot will find themselves lost in the the mind of one Dr Parnassus and love it. :-)

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is first and foremost a Terry Gilliam film, which could make or break the overall experience for you. Gilliam has a very specific style that is best described as an LSD trip with a more cohesive story. His films are usually incredibly visual, are wrapped around a unique story, and above all else spectacularly weird. The one thing his films can always guarantee though is originality. Doctor Parnassus is very similar to Gilliam's The Brother's Grimm, which also starred Heath Ledger. At least as far as visuals go. So if you're not a fan of other Gilliam films like Time Bandits, Baron Manchausen, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Brothers Grimm, or Tideland among others, then it's safe to say you probably won't enjoy this film.

The other piece of information that's worth knowing going into this is to not expect much Heath Ledger. Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell were brought in for a reason. You're left wanting more, which is probably a good thing. It's not a stab at Depp, Law, or Ferrell as they all portrayed Tony pretty flawlessly. Ledger is around long enough to show potential. He has a few standout scenes and a great speech or two. Then he's gone. Out of the three actors that also played Tony, Depp did the best job. When you first see Johnny Depp as Tony, he still looks like Heath Ledger. His actions, his body language, his dialogue, it all feels like the same character. Without giving too much away, it feels as if Tony changed every time he stepped through the mirror. Well, that's not entirely true. It's more like Tony's true nature was revealed more and more with each transformation.
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VINE VOICEon June 1, 2010
When you name a review "baffling" and it's by Terry Gilliam, most people who are familiar with his movies, would claim that as a pre requisite.
I say it in two ways, first and foremost how you could get Christopher Plummer, Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law AND Colin Farrell in the same movie and be moved to indifference for the first hour of this movie.
Secondly, it's baffling because it's really quite weird. That's not a complaint as such, as I said in the introduction, one can hardly call Terry Gilliam mainstream.
Indeed, in todays fast buck mega pictures out to ream cash from the masses, it's refreshing to still see a filmmaker, who has the money (and the courage) to interpret on screen, what most of us confine to our nighttime dreams.
Oversimplifying the film would be to say that the Devil (played with more than a dollop of dark charm by Tom Waits) as "Mr Nick" made a deal, or bet in an undisclosed distant past, with monk Christopher Plummer who gained immortality in the wager.
Now years later, he runs a tin pan side show, where people can visit their "dreams" by stepping through his mirror (while he controls it with a trance) and he can help them shape their own world, and save their soul. Mr Nick in the meantime, usually appears in their dream world with a more appealing alternative (but worse conclusion) and the too and fro for souls, as you get the impression, has been battled out between them.
Plummer, now an aged drunk has a soon to be 16 year old daughter Valentina (played with a pale but almost sexy fragility by Lily Cole) and a zealous apprentice Anton, again played amiably by another newcomer Andrew Garfield, and long standing advisor Vern Troyer (Austin Powers).
We learn that in one of the two protagonists "deals" at some point, Parnassus (Plummer) fell in love, and had a child, which he must hand over to Mr Nick on her rapidly approaching 16th birthday, unless he can win a new "bet".
Enter Heath Ledger, as an amnesiac apparent suicide victim, saved by our wandering troupe, who signs on to help Parnassus and company, reach the public, win the bet, and woo the daughter, much to the chagrin of Anton who has yet to announce his undying love to Valentina.
Sounds interesting? Yes it does, and I had high hopes, not only to see Legder in his last performance, but I had also been more than impressed by the glitzy high profile trailer.
But it's dull, I'm sorry but trudges through the first hour and in attempting to conjure up many visions of Parnassuses World, ends up a mess.
There isn't any real tension even when the story gets going, Depp, Law, and Farrell are nothing more than wasted cameos, and even the twist at the end, isn't really gripping. By two hours in, I had lost any real compassion for any of the characters.

I have long been a fan of Terry Gilliam, I thoroughly enjoyed the Brothers Grimm, and Brazil, but frankly this is not in that league.
If you like bizarre out there movies, give it a go by all means.
I didn't want to be mean, but 3 stars was as generous as I could be.
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on May 15, 2015
There's plenty to enjoy here (lots of fantastic visuals, tremendous acting, etc.) but it's a bit scattered, way too long and adds up to...not much. It's great to see Heath Ledger's final performance and I love a film that swings for the fences, but this one's a mixed bag.
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on May 9, 2016
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” is not one of Gilliam's masterpieces, but it does have some of his best work in terms of visual imagination. The film's plot wobbles a lot, but the basic idea is that Doctor Parnassus is the good guy, and Mr. Nick is the bad guy, the devil, in fact. In a wager with Mr. Nick, Parnassus received eternal life, but Parnassus' daughter, Valentina must surrender her soul to Mr. Nick on her 16th birthday. The bet is altered to allow Valentina to escape this fate if Doctor Parnassus can convert five souls to his own, less materialistic, way of thinking by Valentina's birthday, which is only days away.

Dr. Parnassus travels around in an ungainly carnival wagon which can be set up for stage performances anywhere. The centerpiece of the show is a mirror through which a person can pass into Dr. Parnassus' imagination. Those who pass through the mirror encounter a variety of worlds, some realistic, others cartoon-like. These journeys into imagination are where Gilliam really cuts loose. There are ladders from the ground into clouds, giant heads popping up out of the ground, strange creatures and stranger landscapes. The images range from colorful daydreams to dark nightmares. Mr. Nick also inhabits this world beyond the mirror. Those who are converted to Parnassus way of thinking come out with joy in their hearts. Those who follow the path of Mr. Nick are destroyed. There are important choices to be made in Dr. Parnassus Imaginarium.

The convoluted plot involves other characters including Tony. Tony has alter-egos which appear in the imaginarium. Also in the mix is the sidekick, and conscience, of Dr. Parnassus, Percy . The story is odd and doesn't really hang together very well, but the film is worth watching mainly to experience the wonder of Mr. Gilliam's fantastic visual imagination.
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