Visuals, scruffy charm, trump confusion in 'Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus'
Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus ought to be better than it is. Some scenes waffle and teeter all over themselves before coming to the point, and the narrative wanders off down a few too many dark passages, squandering its momentum. Gilliam coaxes splendid, witty playing out of his gifted cast in some scenes, but in other moments, it sounds as if they were directed to play from an outline of the story instead of a script.
But as a celebration of human imagination, and a passionate defense of the power of storytelling, Dr. Parnassus keeps drawing us into its cheerfully amok orbit. Now that technology has caught up with Gilliam's own fervid imagination, he's able to construct ecstatic onscreen dreamscapes alongside the tawdry fun-house charm of the film's "realistic" sequences. Some lovely moments are also provided by Heath Ledger in his last film role, Tom Waits, as a purring, deadpan Devil, and a sly cameo by Johnny Depp.