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Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, The


Stars: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Andrew Garfield, Lily Cole, Tom Waits, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law, Verne Troyer, Paloma Faith

Director: Terry Gilliam

There's imagination here all right, and by the bucketload. Cohesion, though, is another matter, although at least Ledger's last film is never dull.

Dr Parnassus (Plummer), once a monk who made a bargain with the Devil (Waits, with bowler hat and pencil moustache), is now an old carnival man who trundles his rickety sideshow round towns where few stop to see the performance, in spite of the fact that it includes a clown (Garfield), a midget (Troyer) and Parnassus' beauteous daughter Valentina (Cole), as well as a magic mirror which, once passed through, transports the voyager to the realms of Parnassus' and the director's Monty Python-inspired imagination.

But Parnassus is a worried man. Having bargained with 'Mr Nick' to help him win the woman of his choice, he now faces the penalty. Valentina will become Mr Nick's on her fast-approaching 16th birthday.

The travelling show is joined by Tony (Ledger), found hanging under a bridge, but saved by a magic whistle lodged in his throat - a crooked charity worker on the run. Ledger, of course, died during filming, but Gilliam, probably with some re-shooting, ingeniously reworks the plot so that his face changes when he goes through the mirror, enabling Depp (very good), Law and Farrell to fill in the scenes Ledger had yet to film.

A tale to delight the eye, it never quite hangs together but provides a number of vivid scenes along the way that you have to admire.

David Quinlan

UK/Canada 2009. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Technicolor.
122 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 11 Oct 2009