Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
United Kingdom/Canada/France, 2009. Infinity Features Entertainment, Poo Poo Pictures, Parnassus Productions, Davis-Films, Téléfilm Canada, Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit, U.K. Tax Credit, Province of British Columbia Film Incentive BC, British Columbia Film, The Movie Network, Movie Central. Screenplay by Terry Gilliam, Charles McKeown. Cinematography by Nicola Peorini. Produced by Amy Gilliam, Terry Gilliam, Samuel Hadida, William Vince. Music by Jeff Danna, Mychael Danna. Production Design by Anastasia Masaro. Costume Design by Monique Prudhomme. Film Editing by Mick Audsley. Academy Awards 2009. Toronto International Film Festival 2009.
Good luck figuring out what is going on here. A magical travelling show appears in the middle of London whose painted backdrops, once entered, take a person to alternate worlds. We learn eventually that the titular mystical old man who runs the spectacle (Christopher Plummer) is hundreds of years old after having made a deal with the devil (Tom Waits) to extend his life. The deal also included the handing over of his young daughter (Lily Cole) to the evil one on her sixteenth birthday, which is fast approaching. In an effort to undo the pact, Doctor Parnassus tries to arrange a new deal, telling the devil that whoever can seduce five souls into the magic of the Imaginarium will get Valentina as a prize. Helping out is the young man (Heath Ledger in his final role) whom the troupe rescue after nearly being hanged from a bridge. Ledger tragically died during production of the film, nearly destroying the entire project until Gilliam came up with the neat twist of having him turn into other actors (Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law) once inside the world of fantasy. There’s no doubt that the film would have been a god-awful mess even without this roadblock: the plotting rambles along and the pace is dreadfully dull, with an overemphasis on overly convoluted visuals that eventually grow ugly and tiresome.