The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is Terry Gilliam's latest concoction of fantasy storytelling. Gilliam kind of took a break for a few years after his last film Tideland got pretty poor reviews. I actually happened to like Tideland for what it was and I thought it was a daring move by Jeff Bridges to take on such a dark role of a heroin addict like that. But with Dr. Parnassus, Gilliam is pretty much back in top form with his signature dark and twisted family fun fantasy film much like he was with The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, my favorite Gilliam film as well as my favorite fantasy film of all time. But this film is also unique in a way that it just so happens to be the great Health Ledgers final role before his tragic and untimely death.
The film centers around an old fashioned traveling theater that gets pulled around from town to town by horse. Led by the elderly Doctor Parnassus, brilliantly played by Christopher Plummer, the theater offers it's customers much more than they bargained for once they enter through the backstage area. When the traveling theater of four stumbles upon a man named Tony, played by Ledger, hanging by the neck from a bridge, things get even more weird as Tony starts to enter the imaginarium world with the customers.
The unfortunate passing of Ledger led to Gilliam having to shoot the scenes where Tony is in the imaginarium world with three other actors playing him instead of Ledger, and it actually works giving the film yet another unique Gilliam vision. The other three "imaginarium Tony's" are played by Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell thus creating a freaking all star cast. But I'll give you fair warning that Depp has maybe five to ten minutes of screen time at most, Law scraping in maybe five more minutes than that, and Farrell with the longest at maybe twenty minutes. Farrell actually has the best performance out of the three of them and has a really cool story line too. His section of the film which comes towards the end is definitely my favorite. I must admit that Farrell has been growing on me more and more over the years as I really hated the guy when he first entered the scene, but he really seems to have his shit together now and is choosing his roles more wisely.
The film is visually stunning as are all of Gilliam's films but the script and storyline get a tad confusing here and there and I was led off track a few times. Health Ledger and Christopher Plummer both turn in great performances and it was sad watching Heath knowing that it was the last time we'll see him in something new. It was actually a bit eery in some scenes where I saw the character of The Joker still in him mix in with his Tony character, keep an eye out for that. I didn't want to turn this into a Heath Ledger tribute, I'll save that for another day when I can dedicate my true time to the man, but I will definitely miss him as an actor. At least he left us with many great memorable films to remember him by. As for Terry Gilliam....keep'em coming man. I'm excited for this blu-ray as I'm sure it will look spectacular. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus gets a 3 and a 1/2 outa 5.