The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is a must-see movie in every sense. Is it great? Not really, but like most Gilliam movies, it's an experience. And a profoundly personal experience this time, because Parnassus is actually an autobiographical tale.
The plot is quite convoluted, so I will not attempt to make any coherent summarization. Let's just say that Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is actually Terry Gilliam, who is trying to tell tales of imagination, but nobody really cares anymore. Also starring is Heath Ledger as Tony in his last role, who actually isn't the lead, in a role inspired by Tony Blair himself. Great support comes from Tom Waitts as the Devil, as well as Lilly Cole as Parnassus' daughter. The three actors replacing Ledger posthumously (Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farell) all do a terrific job at portraying different aspects of Tony's character, with Johny Depp delivering a terrific speech written about Ledger's passing, and Farell shining as the darkest aspect of Tony's character. Personally I think the inclusion of the three actors has really improved the movie's thematic core.
With this film, we see Gilliam completely unrestrained, but unlike Tideland, this time he has a modest budget that allows him to present a fully realized vision of decaying modern London and the utter craziness of the Imaginarium (a special mention has to go to a certain Pythonesque chorus line with transvestite policemen!). But like Gilliams' latest work, it's overly chaotic, with a fragmented narrative that seems to neglect its audience, thus losing momentum at times. The first 30 minutes suffer the most, with the actors almost muttering their lines and some weird filming angles, but fortunately the movie gradually picks up. In the end, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is a fitting farewell to Ledger and a wonderfully imaginative and original tale, at times where originality has ceased to exist...