Synopsis: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a fantastical morality tale, set in the present-day. Dr. Parnassus with his extraordinary travelling show "The Imaginarium" offers to members of the audience an irresistible opportunity to enter their universe of imaginations and wonders, by passing through a magical mirror. But Dr. Parnassus is cursed with a dark secret. An inveterate gambler, thousands of years ago he made a bet with the devil, Mr. Nick, in which he won immortality. Centuries later, on meeting his one true love, Dr. Parnassus made another deal with the devil, trading his immortality for youth, on condition that when his daughter reached her 16th birthday, she would become the property of Mr Nick. Now it is time to pay the price... In this captivating, explosive and wonderfully imaginative race against time, Dr. Parnassus must fight to save his daughter and undo the mistakes of his past once and for all! [Synopsis courtesy of the Cannes Film Festival].
Round-up: Nearly overshadowing the film itself is the story of its troubled production which, after the death of star Heath Ledger last year, was nearly shut down. Spe... aking at Cannes earlier today, however, Gilliam noted that “everybody in the cast and everbody in the crew was determined that this film would be finished... It was people’s love for Heath that propelled this thing forward. We finished the film for Heath.” As for the film itself, indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez called the it "a messy spectactle" in which "Terry Gilliam is exploring the importance of storytelling and imagination, taking viewers into his own mind, weaving a story comprised of ideas he’s been collecting for years." Most critics have expressed appreciation for the way that Gilliam cleverly handled Ledger's absence from the film (bringing in Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell to play his role after he steps through a mirror and enters Gilliam’s imaginary world late in the film) but express reservations about the movie as a whole. "Marred by shoddy special effects and half-formed fantastical conceits, Terry Gilliam’s 'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus' has the feeling of a comic fantasia desperately seeking to find its rhythm," writes Eric Kohn for indieWIRE noting, however, that it still "deserves to be seen, probed and evaluated as an interesting misfire in Gilliam’s delectably quizzical canon." Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter's Ray Bennett writes that the film "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." Finally, the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw observes that "When Gilliam shoots off into his surreal wonderland, his film has a kind of helium-filled jollity and spectacle. The moments when Plummer's face looms hugely out of the hallucinatory landscape are great: a reminder of the old Python magic. But 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."