Movie Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Published by Clay Cane on Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 12:00 am.

imaginarium_of_doctor_parnassus_poster_10Summary: Padded with trippy CGI sequences, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is about a traveling, broke theatre group that invites people into the mind of a doctor that reveals their imagination. A man named Tony is picked up along the way, but after deals with the devil, imagination gets the best of everyone.

Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is Heath Ledger’s final movie.  Production was halted after the Oscar winner’s death in January 2008. Only one-third of the movie was filmed; the director, Terry Gilliam, clearly tried his best to make the film work. Gilliam even admitted when Ledger passed that he thought the film could not be completed. For some final scenes Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law were used as fill-ins, which actually worked — but this is about all that worked in this fantasy blunder.

As a viewer, you truly want The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus to be a good movie; one can only imagine the challenges (and sadness) Gilliam and the crew dealt with after the passing of Ledger. Disappointingly, this flick misses the mark in nearly every capacity. The plot is empty-headed, the writing is bland and even though the movie is gaudy, there is a big chunk of substance missing. It’s hard to tell if the film would’ve been any better even if Ledger had lived to complete the project.

Movies that revolve around “going in the mind” can either result in catastrophe or success. If you are traveling in the imagination then what exactly is the storyline? Gilliam bounces from one sequence to another, almost like a video game. Nothing links together and the viewer can rarely follow a coherent storyline.  Thankfully, the acting is strong — Ledger and his co-stars aren’t amateurs.  In addition, the special effects are solid, even if it’s over-the-top, but all effects and an unengaging plot doesn’t make a good movie, unless it’s Avatar of course.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is an acidic combo of a Super Mario Bros. game on a disastrous drug trip and a bad Lady Gaga video — however, both Mario and Gaga have better premises.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is in select theaters Christmas Day.

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