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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

A 2009 fantasy film directed by Terry Gilliam.

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The Doctor is Out in "Imaginarium"

  • Jan 27, 2010

I knew very little about this film when I went to the theaters to see it. I had seen a couple of previews online, which got me excited. The movie looked very promising. I expected a fantasy/science fiction adventure with performances that were going to blow my mind away. Instead, I left the theater feeling disappointed and confused. I kept asking myself, "Is that it?"

The special affects and computer animated scenes were truly exceptional. When characters entered the magical mirror, I believed all the people's fantasies I saw. They were both frightening and exciting. In fact, I found myself wishing I could enter and discover my heart's desires.

A theme that I enjoyed from the movie was the constant struggle and balance between "good and evil," which, as it turned out, was not easily determined. I have never thought that good and evil could be as simple as black and white, and this film reaffirmed that belief. In fact, it left me asking many new questions.

The actors had exceptional performances, my favorites being Christopher Plummer (Doctor Parnassus), Heath Ledger (the hanged man), Tom Waits (the devil), and Verne Troyer (Percy). There was a nice balance of imagination, special affects, serious situations, and humor. One downside was there were too many humorous situations for my tastes, especially from Heath Ledger, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law. I appreciated all of Percy's moments, though. He was one of the main reasons the film got a rating of two.

There were many fatal flaws to this film as already foreshadowed with the humor comment. As a typical viewer, I enjoy being taken to one emotion and then sticking with it until a suitable transition occurs for the next feeling. Unfortunately, this movie had me jumping back and forth between horror, awe, thoughtfulness, and laughter that I eventually started to get annoyed. I wanted to enjoy the moods before being thrown into the next one. The lack of suitable transitions was disconcerting. I've never seen any of Terry Gilliam's other films, so I was unfamiliar with this directional style.

A second and even larger flaw to this film is the confusion it evokes. The storyline was choppy and difficult to follow. Many elements were left unexplained by the end of the film, which really bothered me. The conclusion left me wondering if the entire Imaginarium was merely a waste of time.

Perhaps even more annoying then the plot holes was the lack of character development. The actors were not at fault because, as I already mentioned, they had superb skills. Unfortunately, their back stories and even current stories were left lacking. I wanted to learn more about Doctor Parnassus and his time at the temple. I also wanted to learn more about his daughter and her secret admirer. All the characters left too much to the viewer's imagination. Thus, I found myself asking a ton of questions: Why did the devil target Doctor Parnassus? Why was Percy along for the journey? Why was Heath Ledger so despicable? Why did his face keep changing when he entered the mirror? Why did he even need Valentina for his final triumph? These were just a few of the questions left unanswered by the end of the movie.

The last point of contention I had with this film was the over-sexualized teenager. I am very sensitive when it comes to children being exploited physically. Even though the actress is not underage, it bothered me that her character, Valentina, was. Was it a really important or necessary aspect to the film that Valentina be sixteen years old? No! It just had a fairytale charm to it. Throughout most of the film, Valentina's sexuality is carefully guarded and hidden under frumpy clothes or silly costumes. It's not until Tony's appearance (Heath Ledger), that Valentina really comes into her womanhood. I was appalled at the way her character was portrayed with Colin Farrell. Really, how did the movie makers get her breasts to look that big and "out there" when they were practically nonexistent for most of the film?

Overall, I appreciated many of the themes of the film (good versus evil, imagination, forbidden fruit, etc.) as well as the actors' performances. These were qualities that kept it in the positive rating. Otherwise, I would have rated it lower. I just expected more from this film and was disappointed with what I got.
Desired more from Doctor Parnassus and his Imaginarium Desired more from Doctor Parnassus and his Imaginarium

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November 22, 2010
Great review, I thought this was a good flick.
November 22, 2010
Thanks so much for checking out my review on this film, Alex! I was slightly disappointed when I saw it, but I still enjoyed it, especially when I reflected on the intense acting performances. :)
February 03, 2010
Thanks for tackling this film!  I wasn't sure how I would do it.  I saw it and I felt the exact same way that you did.  The special effects were impressive and absolutely stunning, but that storyline just did not make sense to me.  More should have been said or shown to fill in the blanks.  I appreciated the overall theme though.  Great review, Adrianna! :)
February 03, 2010
Yeah, I enjoyed the overall theme of the movie too. Imagination is so important! That and remember to not make deals with the devil! You always lose! LOL
February 03, 2010
Hahahaha, amen! Especially to the latter!!!
February 02, 2010
I have seen previews and felt drawn to see this movie. I will have to really think about it. Nice review!
February 02, 2010
I don't regret seeing the movie; I just wanted so much more from it! Thanks for the review comment. :)
February 02, 2010
Sounds like a great movie gone bad and I think twice before we have to take a look at it. Thanks
February 02, 2010
Thanks for the review comments!
January 31, 2010
Another great review. Haven't seen this movie yet, but the trailers for it look visually impressive. I liked the questions you posed also.
January 31, 2010
Thanks, Pard! I'm happy you were able to read my reviews tonight. Sent you a text message too, but I think you're in bed. See if you can stop by tomorrow before I head back home. (hugs)
More The Imaginarium of Doctor Parn... reviews
review by . May 07, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
3 ½ Stars:
   As much as I admire the style and finesse Terry Gilliam brings in his filmmaking, I find that his final product in direction is more or less a hit or a miss. I loved “12 Monkeys” and “the Fisher King” wasn’t too shabby as I can remember. I was however real disappointed with “The Brothers Grimm” that I avoided “Tideland”. Well, I gave Gilliam’s latest movie a shot since the reception is somewhat of a mixed bag and a lot of people …
review by . August 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I liked the premise of the movie.  Basically, a deal with the devil is struck and that when the deal maker's child(ren) reached 16 years old, they became the property of the devil himself.  In turn, the deal maker would have immortality.      There is a great case of characters in this movie:  Christopher Plummer, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrel, Jude Law and Heath Ledger (in his last film where he passed during the filming and was covered by the previously …
review by . May 08, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Terry Gilliam remains one of the more idiosyncratic and creative writer/director/producer phenomenons in the business. His ability as an illustrator and as a satirist date back to his college years at Occidental College in Los Angeles where he daily startled students and faulty alike with his broad but biting and well groomed antics. For this viewer THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS is one of his strongest forays in the field that can only be described as the Gilliam Genre. He combines a superb …
review by . April 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
As you probably can tell, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is one odd movie. I think it's worth checking out, but I'm not yet sold on it. The plot is essentially a fairy tale of a man who made a bet with the devil He and his traveling troupe possess a mirror into a bizarre world in which people are forced to make a choice between good and evil.     Visually, the film is stunning. It contrasts the drab reality with the vivid colors of the mirror world. The movie also does keep …
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
This film was hard to understand but it was enjoyable. I liked the charachters and the magic
Quick Tip by . July 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A fantastic movie and a tribute to how great the late Heath Ledger truly was.Do not do drugs before watching.
review by . July 01, 2010
If there is one thing the British are good at, that would be making very original movies, and none excel at this better than Terry Gilliam. Their latest release is this combination of drama, fantasy, action and comedy. Starring a cast of many famous actors, this movie is probably the biggest release so far for the red-headed beauty Lily Cole. Like all of Gilliam's movies, this one deals with fantasy but is ultimately about relationships, and what one does for love and friendship. Unlike Gilliam's …
Quick Tip by . June 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
This movie was very disappointing!
Quick Tip by . May 05, 2010
I love Gilliam's work & I'm a fan of all the actors, but this left me cold. The effects are great, but as Ledger's last film it's a letdown.
Quick Tip by . February 02, 2010
So this is what psychedelic adventures are made of! Great visuals, but story was hard to follow.
About the reviewer
Adrianna Simone ()
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About this movie


The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a 2009 fantasy film directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Gilliam and Charles McKeown. The film follows the leader of a travelling theatre troupe who, having made a deal with the Devil, takes audience members through a magical mirror to explore their imaginations.

Christopher Plummer, Tom Waits, and Heath Ledger star in the film, though Ledger's death one-third of the way through filming caused production to be temporarily suspended. Ledger's role was recast with Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell portraying transformations of Ledger's character Tony as he travels through a dream world.

The film's world premiere was during the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, out of competition. The UK release of the film was scheduled for 6 June 2009 but pushed back to 16 October 2009 due to its successful premiere at Cannes. The film was given a limited release in the US on Christmas Day 2009 and a wide release on 8 January 2010.
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Director: Terry Gilliam
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Release Date: January 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: April 27, 2010
Runtime: 123 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
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