Generally favorable reviews - based on 30 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 22 out of 30
  2. Negative: 1 out of 30
  1. If you're game, "Parnassus" is a richly rewarding experience. If not, it comes off like pretentious nonsense.
  2. Christopher Plummer is delightful as this movie’s master magician and impresario of the rickety Imaginarium.
  3. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    In short, “Imaginarium’’ is a Terry Gilliam movie and it’s a mess, which over the years have come to mean much the same thing. It’s one of his better messes, though, or at least this critic was won over by its ramshackle whimsies.
  4. 50
    The behind-the-scenes tragedy gives Gilliam an easy excuse for the dull chaos that engulfs the story, but he might have generated it all on his own.
  5. 75
    This is an Imaginarium indeed. The best approach is to sit there and let it happen to you; see it in the moment and not with long-term memory, which seems to be what Parnassus does.
  6. The best moments in “Parnassus” are not otherwordly but worldly. It’s a movie about a dying magician and the death of magic. This is a subject that obviously means a lot to Gilliam, and he makes us feel it in our bones.
  7. Reviewed by: Olly Richards
    There are thrilling flashes of Gilliam getting back to top form here. A scrappy movie with more ideas than it can control, but one born out of a passion and determination that are wholly infectious.
  8. As is so often the case since his "Monty Python" days, Gilliam is best at visual games and weakest at storytelling.
  9. As unusual and idiosyncratic as its one-of-a-kind title. You'd expect no less from Terry Gilliam, and admirers of this singular filmmaker will be pleased to know that "Imaginarium" is one of his most original and accessible works.
  10. 50
    Feels like a cobbled collection of ideas and conceits rather than a stand-alone story.
  11. Parnassus is a cold film that delights in dancing along that fine line separating "fantastical" and "nonsensical." Then, when a movie is supposed to hit things home -- in that all-important third act -- it lands with a thud on the wrong side.
  12. "Parnassus," while not unwatchable, is also an elephantine mess.
  13. 75
    The Depp sequence is especially poignant, apparently rewritten with references to other celebrities who died before their time -- Rudolph Valentino, James Dean and Princess Di -- and who will remain "forever young" in our imaginations.
  14. 63
    It’s filmic fool’s gold, as every scene that doesn’t sparkle is just dirt -- dank, gritty visuals, murky plotting and very bad line-readings from Troyer (Mini-Me from the Austin Powers movies).
  15. Vintage Terry Gilliam, a pour not to all tastes but one certain to please lovers of "Time Bandits" and "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen."
  16. 75
    If you loved his (Gilliam) older work -- and if you can stand the twinge of pain that beholding the lamented Ledger will surely evoke -- it’s worth a visit.
  17. 63
    A movie assembled from diverse pieces that don't quite match. It's the cinematic equivalent of a patchwork quilt.
  18. 75
    Despite a shaky framework, the magic works. It's a chance to see Ledger one last time in the act of doing what he loved. Take it.
  19. The film ends up landing in a confused middle category. It's neither a coherent, discrete work nor a zany tribute to the late actor.
  20. Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell do yeoman work on behalf of their late friend and, as usual, Gilliam's film is a feast for the eyes. But all the king's men can't corral the horses running roughshod over basics like plot and character.
  21. 83
    In a real sort of way, Gilliam IS Parnassus, carrying his tatterdemalion show forward from year to year and trying to get people to pay attention, and the mingled sense of bitterness and hope in his story makes this whole crazed fantasy into something far more real.
  22. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus takes us deep into the imagination of Terry Gilliam, which once was a splendid place to visit. And might prove so again. But not here, because this film is less a coherent exercise of imagination than a haphazard lecture on its importance, a lecture that eventually dwindles into self-indulgence.
  23. The film is neither intelligent enough nor silly or grotesque enough to become a lasting favorite.
  24. It’s a full three-ring affair, complete with puffs of smoke, glitter and grunge, some hocus-pocus, mumbo jumbo and even a dwarf.
  25. 50
    He can follow any train of thought, so he does, and it’s no surprise when the trains run out of steam.
  26. The real drama in Parnassus comes from the troupe of sideshow performers, led by a terrifically morbid Christopher Plummer.
  27. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Though rambling and at times self-indulgent, its wit and pageantry, boosted by Heath Ledger's final performance, render it irresistible.
  28. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    With Ledger onscreen more than might have been expected, the film possesses strong curiosity value bolstered by generally lively action and excellent visual effects.
  29. Reviewed by: Ella Taylor
    This is potentially wonderful, if not exactly new stuff, but Gilliam and McKeown's willful refusal of coherent narrative and determination to pack every idea about art they ever had into one scenario, make this fiendishly gorgeous movie more exhausting than exhilarating to watch.
  30. 75
    Shot through with a bold, extravagant generosity of spirit, this journey behind the literal and figurative looking glass marks a gratifying return to form for Gilliam.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 143 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 21 out of 34
  2. Negative: 5 out of 34
  1. Aug 3, 2012
    This is one of my all time favorite movies because of it´s atmosphere that´s seems to be borrowed from a different universe. TheThis is one of my all time favorite movies because of it´s atmosphere that´s seems to be borrowed from a different universe. The film is so absurd, hilarious, astonishing, disgusting and all over chaotic it´s just BEST FANTASY MOVIE OF ALL TIME Full Review »
  2. Aug 28, 2010
    I had high expectations of this film, but I ultimately ended up disappointed. Why? Well, the film is definitely attention-grabbing and theI had high expectations of this film, but I ultimately ended up disappointed. Why? Well, the film is definitely attention-grabbing and the entire length of the film you feel captivated and mesmerised, which is the only positive thing in the film. The story is completely confusing and has really no point to it. After watching the film you feel as if you've wasted 2 hours of your life on something that had no point to it. Therefore, it's just a film that had no reason to be made in the first place, which is sad. Visual effects were atrociously bad, which I do understand is intentional, but it's still fugly.

    The acting was pretty decent, but it still cannot make up for the lack of 'personality' of the film. Basically, you will not miss out on anything if you don't watch the film, but if you do you will just be annoyed that it's the way it is. Could have been much much better - especially if it would have had a point to it. Oh well, one can only wish and hope...
    Full Review »
  3. Nov 5, 2010
    If there is something to be said about Terry Gilliam, it's that he doesn't give a damn about trying to please his audience, and I love thatIf there is something to be said about Terry Gilliam, it's that he doesn't give a damn about trying to please his audience, and I love that about him. Depending on who you speak with, a director can be someone who must make a film that people would want to see or tell a story that they want to make. The former seems to be the most commonly accepted way of film making as large sums of money are at stake and it would be very risky to do so. Terry Gilliam's approach is one that I love and feel is a breath of fresh air in that he tells some very interesting stories. He has a way of capturing that sense of discovery and wonder that you (hopefully) got when you were a kid discovering something new. This movie to me is one of his ultimate expressions of this. The movie, in a nutshell, is about the immortal Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and his duels of faith (not religious, but in the virtues of humanity) with the devil (played by an awesome Tom Waits). It involves many flashbacks from when Parnassus was young and details how he become who he is, all the while showing the daily trials and tribulations he and his traveling carnival face as they travel about London. The story is very complex and does require attention to be paid to what is being said, and their morality cannot be judged based on the characters actions as easily as some films. Things are pretty much not what they may seem at all times, and things twist and warp as the story develops further, leaving you sometimes confused. The writing is amazing, with many well written and delivered lines by the cast. They all deliver equally good performances and though I have a hard time finding a favorite, I would have to say Verne Troyer as Anton (who is someone to be watched in the future) and Tom Waits as the Devil where some of my favorites. Heath Ledger gives an excellent performance and as much as I liked him in the Dark Knight, I feel that his performance in Imaginarium is a bit more subtle, but still very interesting. That being said, The Imaginarium is definitely a favorite of mine, but I may be biased as I like Terry Gilliam's style as a director, as well as his choice of actors/actresses. He pours a lot of heart into his movies and as self indulgent as some people say his movies are, I would rather watch his movies more than any other director. Full Review »