THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS

http://www.sonyclassics.com/theimaginariumofdoctorparnassus/

UK / CANADA / FRANCE 2010  Directed by: Terry Gilliam   Written by: Terry Gilliam, Charles McKeown   Produced by: Terry Gilliam, Amy Gilliam, William Vince   Cinematography: Nicola Pecorini   Editing: Mick Audsley   Music: Jeff Danna, Mychael Dynna   Cast: Johnny Depp, Heath Ledger, Colin Farrel, Jude Law, Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Peter Stormare, Tom Waits, Andrew Garfield, Verne Troyer

From the star roll call, THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS should be a teenage girl’s wet dream – Heath Ledger (his final act), Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell. This could almost look like the evil doings of Simon Cowell. But no, it’s by the genuinely creative, renaissance man, Terry Gilliam. And having seen the film, it would give you, otherwise, a different impression – girls, keep your panties on. It’s not going that way.

The title itself implies a sea of deeply rooted dream-world creations. It also suggests the story would travel in the realms not so far from that of a fairytale. It’s a simple enough story. The title character, Doctor Parnassus (played sleepily by Christopher Plummer) is a man of the millennia that keeps the world turning through his imagination and storytelling. One day, the devil (Tom Waits) approaches him and shuts down his day job…the only job that Parnassus knew how to do. And so he’s condemned to a life of poverty and meaninglessness. And if that’s not enough, through a silly wager, Parnassus will also lose his only daughter to the devil by the time she reaches 16, unless if he could help the devil collect five souls.

And so, Parnassus creates the Imaginarium in the form of a traveling theater troupe, where the visitor’s dreams would come true within by the good doctor’s imagination. However, because Parnassus is old, dirty, sleepy, lacks charm and persuasion, his scheme dwindles by the day, and fears that his daughter will be lost forever.

In comes Tony (Heath Ledger), a mystery man who got saved by the Parnassus posse along their journey. Grateful for regaining his life, Tony vows to do all he can to help Parnassus keep his daughter (played by the voluptuous baby doll, Lily Cole). With everything just the opposite of Parnassus, Tony revamps the Imaginarium and easily lures woman after woman into it. And, because it’s all women that enter the Imaginarium, inside, they dream of being wooed by various hunks – namely, the rest of the bad-boy cast.

The story moved along like the tired theater troupe it depicts. It’s slow, dreadful, and flat. It clearly looked like it was pulled out of Gilliam’s dreamscapes, and it played like how anyone would remember their dreams after hours of waking from it – in bits and pieces. There never really was a climax that propelled the story to any interest. And, in the age of Avatar, its special effects just didn’t live up to the time. It vividly reminded me of some 60s’ psychedelic music videos that employed paper cutouts and tie-dyed canvases.

In the end, this attempt of originality turned out looking more like a showcase of a collage of these actors, each trying to stick his neck above the others. Coming off the Joker role from THE DARK KNIGHT, Heath Ledger seemed to have found his niche, that of a mumbling crazed lunatic. A bit sad to see that he didn’t have another film to bounce away from it due to his untimely death. Both Jude Law and Colin Farrell busted out their bags of expression tricks: overly frantic, overly excited, and overly done. Only Johnny Depp played it with ease and convincingly made me believe he had the right swagger to get these housewives who entered the Imaginarium to give up their souls. I’ll give him credit for that, because I’m getting just a little tired of his charade of fairytale and makeup epics, and this was a fresh break from it. But give it a rest, if Gilliam wants to create another fantasy fable, at least dress it up with a higher standard of quality, like that of his contemporary, Tim Burton.

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