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Now in our eleventh calendar year!
PCR #511 (Vol. 11, No. 2). This edition is for the week of January 4--10, 2010.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"  by Mike Smith
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Kokkuri  by Jason Fetters
Death and Redemption of the Message Board  by John Miller
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Sony Classic Pictures     
Starring: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer and Lily Cole
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 2 hours 2 mins

If I asked you right now to name a great visionary director, odds are you would pick either Tim Burton or James Cameron. Both are skilled filmmakers whose films almost always make money. In fact, Cameron just became the ONLY filmmaker to have two films earn a billion dollars at the box office this past week when “Avatar” hit that mark. Of course, it should be noted that he was also the ONLY filmmaker to have one film earn a billion dollars at the box office, which he achieved with “Titanic.” Talented as these two men are, they pale in comparison to Terry Gilliam. From his early work with Monty Python through such films as “Time Bandits,” “Brazil,” “The Fisher King” and “12 Monkeys,” Gilliam has managed to put his own spin on the worlds he creates and he continues to do so with “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.”

London. A group of young people stumbles out of a pub and comes across an unusual side show attraction. One of the young men in the group is drawn towards it. Drunk, he begin harassing the beautiful Valentina, the young girl (Cole) working the attraction. He climbs up onto the stage and pushes his way through what appears to be a mirror. Behind the mirror he finds himself surrounded by empty bottles of every kind, kind of an alcoholics worse nightmare. His astonished friends at first laugh when he disappears. Until he doesn’t come back.

A fable that builds on the concept of “good” versus “evil,” “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” will always be remembered first and foremost as being the last film to feature the late Heath Ledger. But it is so much more. The film tells the tale of the incredibly old Dr. P (Plummer), who centuries ago made a deal with old Scratch himself, the devil. Over the years the deal changed (immortality traded for youth, etc.) to the point where Mr. Nick (a perfectly cast Tom Waits) was promised the good doctors’ first born child when he or she turned 16. That child turns out to be Valentina, who reaches sweet 16 in a matter of days. Lucky for Dr. Parnassus, his motley group of employees have made the acquaintance of Mr. Tony (Ledger), a hapless man who can also use a break. Once again the rules of the bet change and Tony finds himself caught in several adventures that could determine his future.

As I said above, most attention paid to the film concern the tragic passing of Heath Ledger in January 2008. A tragedy then and still today. However, with just a stroke of the pen, writer/director Gilliam made it possible to have Ledger’s role played by three of Hollywoods’ best: Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell. Though Ledger gives a strong performance, it is the inclusion of the other three that make the movie work so well. It’s almost as if tragedy helped shape the story of the film for the better. All three men do outstanding jobs in honoring Ledger’s performance as well as making theirs unique. The rest of the cast is just as good, with special mention going to Verne Troyer, who is perhaps best known as Mini Me in the “Austin Powers” films. In those films he doesn’t speak and is mostly there for slapstick comic relief. Here he gives a true performance and he doesn’t disappoint. However, the acting star here is the veteran Plummer. 45 years after becoming a star in “The Sound of Music” he is still doing outstanding work, with his work here surely a career highlight. As with all Terry Gilliam films, the visual quality is top notch. Here Gilliam helped serve as his own art director and the images you see are truly his vision.

Many films are overshadowed by the sadness that follows the passing of one of it’s stars, especially one that leaves us way too early. That being said, I found this film to be a fitting and lasting tribute to the man it is lovingly dedicated to. On a scale of zero to four stars I give “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”


This week's movie review of "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" is ©2010 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2010, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.