Terry Gilliam's latest fantastical adventure, titled The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, screened at the Cannes Film Festival a little while ago, and the first reviews are out. The film, which is obviously drawing more press because it features Heath Ledger's final performance, is, like most of Gilliam's films, a little on the weird side (read the full synopsis after the jump). When Ledger passed away without finishing his work on the movie, it appeared as if the Gilliam curse had struck again -- leaving him little choice but to either scrap the entire film or hire a new lead actor and re-shoot all his scenes. Thankfully Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law came to the rescue, and they somehow found a way to have these three gents finish Ledger's remaining scenes by playing alternate-dimension versions of the same character. So what's the final outcome?
"... the film's convoluted curlicues are tiring, insisting too loudly on how "imaginative" everything is. And when it descends into the real world – Lucy out of the sky without diamonds, as it were – the film can frankly be a bit ho-hum, with some very broad acting from the bit-part crowd players. Gilliam's previous movie Tideland showed he still has teeth, and he bares them occasionally here. The dark side reveals itself, time and again, in the ruined, unsentimental locations in London. But this movie, though perfectly amiable, could be for fans only." -- Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
"Synthesizing elements from several of his previous pictures, including "Time Bandits," "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" and "The Fisher King," the often overreaching director addresses a mad hatter of a story with the expected visual panache and what is, for him, considerable discipline. With Ledger onscreen more than might have been expected, the film possesses strong curiosity value bolstered by generally lively action and excellent visual effects, making for good commercial prospects in most markets." Todd McCarthy, Variety
More quotes, a scene featuring Ledger and the synopsis after the jump ...
"A carnival show with a mirror to the imagination allows Gilliam to employ his remarkable gift for imagery but the worlds he creates will not take the breath away of children or grownups. The combined star power involved will generate a plentiful boxoffice return but the film is not intelligent enough nor silly or grotesque enough to become a lasting favorite. Filled with phantasmagorical images with the occasional echo of "Monty Python's Flying Circus," the picture involves a classic duel between the forces of imagination, led by Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), and the architect of fear and ignorance, known here as Mr. Nick (Tom Waits)." -- Ray Bennett, The Hollywood Reporter
"All eyes are naturally on Ledger's performance for the time he remains on screen. It's bittersweet to see him in the flesh and to hear lines spoken to him in the film about those who go before their time: "They are forever young, they won't grow old." It's also hard to judge his performance as the film cuts between his replacements - Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell. However, Gilliam's multiple choices work well, with Ledger and Depp actually looking curiously similar. " -- Emma Jones, BBC
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus Synopsis:
Set in the present day, director Terry Gilliam's fantastical morality tale follows the traveling show of the mysterious Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) -- a man who once won a bet with the Devil himself, and possesses the unique ability to guide the imagination of others. Many centuries ago, Dr. Parnassus won immortality in a bet that found the malevolent Mr. Nick (Tom Waits) coming up short. While few would be foolish enough to try their luck against the powers of darkness a second time, Dr. Parnassus did precisely that -- this time trading his mortality for youth on the understanding that his firstborn would become the property of Mr. Nick when the child reaches his or her 16th birthday. Flash-forward to the present day, and Dr. Parnassus' daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole), is about to celebrate her sweet sixteen. Dr. Parnassus is desperate to save his little girl from her fiery fate, and when Mr. Nick arrives to collect, the good doctor presents the Prince of Darkness with a wager too enticing to refuse: Dr. Parnassus and Mr. Nick will each compete to seduce five souls, with possession of Valentina going to whomever manages to complete the task first. As the competition begins to heat up, Dr. Parnassus promises his daughter's hand in marriage to any man who can help him successfully navigate the surreal obstacle course that lies ahead and finally help him undue the many mistakes of his past.