I first heard about “The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus” due to the untimely death of Heath Ledger, as the Terry Gilliam film was the project he was working on at the time.  I never got around to seeing it in the theaters, but I did keep an eye out for its release on DVD.


When I went to rent this movie, I asked the person at the video store her opinion on it, since she has been in sync with me on a few other movies I’ve asked her about, and she’s agreed with most of my opinions.  She said “if you like Terry Gilliam films, you’ll like this one”.  The name struck a bell, but I had to do a little investigating to get an idea for who Terry Gilliam is and what work he has done.  I’ve never seen Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, though I have an idea what it’s about and I know that I should see it (I’ve added it to my list along with Time Bandits and Brazil).  I’m probably going to get some hate-mail about this one, but I’m not such a fan of Monty Python movies, as I like my British comedy to be action-packed, dark and full of hip-sounding slang (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a prime example).  Anyway, Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus didn’t do anything to make me more of a Terry Gilliam fan.  Any Gilliam films I see in the future will be mostly to expand my knowledge-base and to see if anything hits.  This movie, while inventive and well-crafted, was too much of a bad-drug-trip movie for my taste, and it’s certainly not going into my Top 100.

Like many, my main interest in seeing this film was due to Heath Ledger, and I wasn’t disappointed with the performance I saw from him.  While I certainly don’t think this role deserved any kind of award nomination, Heath Ledger did a good job with the bizarre character.  The way in which Ledger’s unfilmed scenes were handled was excellently executed.

Without giving too much of the film away, there’s a portal involved which transports people to a different realm (usually) momentarily.  A certain providence in the filming schedule, Terry Gilliam hadn’t filmed any of those parts of the movie at the time of Heath Ledger’s death, and so this is where the three replacement actors come into play.

Johnny Depp, Jude Law and then Colin Farrel do a great job in playing Ledger’s character in the other realm.  In fact, when each of the first two of them showed up on camera for the first time, I thought for a moment that I was still looking at Heath Ledger.

As one probably expects from a very seasoned actor, Christopher Plummer was great in his role as Doctor Parnassus.  At times I felt like the character was a bit too similar to Dumbledore from the Harry Potter films, though there were some very big differences, to be sure.

I actually really liked Verne Troyer in his serious role, having only seen him in comedies to this point.  Lesser-known actors (at least to me) Andrew Garfield and Lily Cole did good jobs with their supporting characters, to the point where I’ll be interested to watch other films they’re in.

Though I’m not particularly familiar with his other work, Tom Waite does a great job in his role.  The way he played his role felt natural, unforced; was creepy in an understated way, conniving with a sense of charisma in the way he conducted himself.  The interactions between he and Christopher Plummer felt organic.

As I mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of this film just based on how weird it is and its bad-drug-trip style (which makes me think I’m not going to enjoy Fear And Loathing… but I’ll see it anyway), but if you like creative movies and are hoping to see most of Heath Ledger’s great performances, definitely put this one on the list.  Don’t get too excited about it, though, because I made that mistake and I was really disappointed by it (I was expecting greatness, though, not just “above average”).  I’m guessing that no more than half of the people who read this article are going to enjoy Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus – and I won’t blame you for it.

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