'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus' originally hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons as it was the film Heath Ledger was making before his untimely death. Undoubtedly writer/director Terry Gilliam is now hoping it will hit the headlines for all the right ones.

The Imaginarium is a travelling show which has toured the world, allowing members of its audience to spend time in their imaginations, facilitated by the magic of the immortal Doctor Parnassus (Plummer). Following 'The Brothers Grimm', Gilliam's latest fantastical morality tale highlights the lack of imagination in modern day, hedonistic society.

The shock of Ledger's death left the director with more than his emotions to contend with, but also an unfinished film. However, he successfully devised a clever way to bring his vision for the talented Ledger and his character to fruition and in so doing, complete the film. The transformation, aided ably by Ledger's peers, Depp, Farrell and Law, is flawless and certainly a highlight of the film.

Another is the unmistakably magical yet gritty cinematography on offer throughout from 'The Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' director, complete with tilted 'Dutch Angle' camera work. From the grim urban street scenes to the Imaginarium, no expense is spared to offer the audience a feast of the eyes. However, the script and plot, while humorous, lack discipline and meander on a self-indulgent journey which is difficult to follow.

Waits adds another great performance to his cult catalogue as old Nick himself, passing his ample time placing wagers with an all-too-willing Parnassus, who gambles everything for love.

Legendary, and normally exemplary, Plummer seems tired by his role as the great Doctor. Either that or the direction restrained him from delivering a more rounded, energetic performance.

While she certainly looks the part of the beautiful, enthralling daughter, model Lily Cole is just that, as her over-acting and limited emotional range confirms.

Despite the stellar cast and the appeal for Ledger fans to see his final performance, ' The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus' will have limited appeal to audiences beyond arthouse, or Gilliam's Pythonesque-humour loving, regulars.

Taragh Loughrey-Grant

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