Starring Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, and Tom Waits. Rated PG. Opens Friday, December 25, at the Cinemark Tinseltown
Usually the burning question when you go into a Terry Gilliam film is what fresh madness will the Brit writer-director have under his hat this time? A bigger question looms over The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus: how, precisely, did Gilliam manage the absence of actor Heath Ledger, who died midway through filming? If you think you’ll get that answer here, you’re ridiculously mistaken. Okay, a certain white suit does come in handy.
Watch the trailer for The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.
The imaginarium of Gilliam (and cowriter Charles McKeown) was apparently so jammed with ideas they all had to spill out into one film or his head would have exploded. The fantastical, messy, noisy, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink result might be a tad crazy-making for some, but fans of Brazil, Time Bandits, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen can step right up. Not to mention that the actors all seem to be enjoying a really excellent playtime.
Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is a roughly 1,000-year-old guy travelling around seedy bits of modern London in a dilapidated circus wagon, spinning stories and elaborate stage tricks for mostly uninterested audiences. Costarring in this creative anachronism are his teenage daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole), wise-ass dwarf Percy (Verne Troyer), and apprentice Anton (Andrew Garfield). Unluckily, the doc made a bad deal with the Devil (Tom Waits) in exchange for immortality, and now Mr. Nick has come to collect.
Heath Ledger, in a rascally performance, plays Tony, a scruffy mystery man who changes everybody’s course. As you probably already know, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell also play Tony. That works, amazingly well, and helps soothe the bittersweetness of seeing Ledger in his final film performance. Oh, and the old dude’s imaginarium? That surreal, CGI–mad, magic-mushrooming, hallucinatory head trip? That’s some distraction too.