Starring: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Andrew Garfield, Verne Troyer, Lily Cole, Tom Waits, Peter Stormare, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell
A traveling theater company gives its audience much more than they were expecting.
As much as it pains me to admit, I’m really not crazy about Terry Gilliam’s movies. I have the utmost respect for the man and his incredible imagination, but more often than not his films tend towards a level of eccentricity that just cannot hold my attention for long. It could be that he’s an acquired taste, or possibly just not my personal cup of tea, but there it is.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is no different: sweeping, lush and imaginative, yes, but also tedious. Thirty minutes into the thing I still had no concept of what it was supposed to be aside from a two hour long drug trip. The premise of devout monk leading unsuspecting patrons through their imagination as part of a deal with the devil is certainly unique, but it’s not particularly engaging and never seems to make much sense within the context of the film. So much about this endeavor seems utterly arbitrary. Stream of consciousness can be cool and even clever, but being strange doesn’t qualify a story for being made into a movie. Even when the special effects are noteworthy, the film just sort of plods along, straining towards a sense of purpose and depth it never quite pins down.
The cast is certainly nice to look at, but the acting could be better; Lily Cole is especially tiresome and struggles to keep up with the likes of Christopher Plummer, Heath Ledger and Andrew Garfield. A commendable job was done on the part of the production to fill in the gaps left by Ledger’s death and Jude Law is particularly uncanny in channeling his mannerisms. It’s not enough to salvage the whole film, though, and what Ledger did before his death is pretty far from his best. Most of the character development is incidental, which makes it difficult to care what happens to any of them.
If you’re a fan of Gilliam, you may very well enjoy the film, but I can’t really recommend it for anyone else, despite the vast, diverse cast and interesting concept. Well, unless you’re planning on dropping some acid and looking to switch up from The Wizard of Oz.