From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - C+

Rated PG-13 for violent images, some sensuality, language and smoking, 123 minutes

Gilliam's uneven "Dr. Parnassus" a visual feast

"The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" will always be remembered as Heath Ledger's last film, the one he was making at the time of his untimely death two years ago. Though it has an eclectic cast and is filled with some striking, unusual visuals, director and writer Terry Gilliam's vision is at best colorful and indulgent and at worst depressing and incoherent. It's worth a look for Ledger and for the energy the visuals provide, though you likely won't remember much else.

In London current day, Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) leads a traveling theater troupe that includes his dwarf confidant Percy (Verne Troyer), his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) and card expert Anton (Andrew Garfield). Parnassus had traded Valentina's soul to the devil, known as Mr. Nick (Tom Waits) and he's come to collect on his prize. He's agreed to forget the wager if Parnassus can collect five souls for him. In the meantime, Parnassus saves a drifter named Tony (initially Heath Ledger, and Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law in various forms) from death and Tony agrees to help collect the souls if he can marry Valentina, with whom he's fallen in love with.

"The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" is a bizarre, florid and unbalanced take on a fantasy world and an interesting view of the battle between good and evil, as imagined as only Gilliam can imagaine it. His visuals are by far the best thing about the film when it goes into the dreamlike imaginarium world behind mirrors and doors. It wears its unconventional notions on its sleeve in a big way, which is both good and bad. It gives way to some of the most striking visuals seen in sometime, including some huge high-heel shoes underwater and a walk with some very high stilts.

Ledger has the most talked about role, a small supporting one seen during the film's first act, and it's a wistful, beautiful performance that won't rank as his best. Once he leaves the film, it's up to the film's magical visuals to take over, and Gilliam amps them up considerably at every turn. Deep, Law and Farrell play a different variation of Ledger's character, an intriguing but really unnecessary idea given that none of the actors are on-screen for more than a few minutes (Depp is particularly a disappointment). Even better is a tart Plummer as Parnassus, who's role seems truncated, and especially rock star Tom Waits as an energetic incarnation of the Devil (he slims around as a snake in one memorable scene).

Gilliam seems to have lost his vision after Ledger's death, and this apparent in the wildly disjointed, sad and often baffling second act that proves what an incoherent writer that director Gilliam can often be. "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" is a noble, intriguing, mildly entertaining but uneven effort that unfortunately lost much of its energy after the death of its star and is really for diehard Gilliam and Ledger fans.