The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Terry Gilliam is an auteur with a singular vision so you know what you're going to get before the first reel starts rolling: fish-eyed lenses, dream(y) sequences, enormous puppety heads, slapsticky pratfalls and a bit of moralizing and vanquishing of evildoers. In other words, you get Monty Python on steroids but that...'s a really good thing. I enjoy Gilliam's films, mostly, but often they leave me feeling like that enormous diner from The Meaning of Life ... just one more clever cinematic device and I'll explode.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a Gilliam picture through and through with the mixed blessing of also being Heath Ledger's last film, the one during the filming of which he died. Ledger is wonderful as a mysterious conman who is taken in by Doctor Parnassus's traveling troupe of fantasy merchants who are on the run from a thousand-year-old deal with the devil. (Yes, Dr. Faustus.) The recasting of Ledger's unfinished scenes didn't feel as gimmicky as I had feared and considering the story is about getting lost in the fertile imagination of the title character, played sportingly by Christopher Plummer, having Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell step in wasn't at all jarring.
I was also delighted to see Andrew Garfield, who delivered a sparkling performance in this year's Social Network, as the film's lovelorn protagonist and Lily Cole, a striking young British actress with whom I was unfamiliar, as the good / bad doctor's daughter. Rounding out the principals in this entertaining picture was Verne Troyer (Austin Powers' Mini-Me) as Parnassus' trusted company foreman.


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