A lovely bit of film, along the lines of, but not quite, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, also by Terry Gilliam.
First off, I'm a huge Python fan, especially of Gilliam's artistry in Python. I also love a few other of his films, i.e. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King and Time Bandits. I'm less of a fan of 12 Monkeys, Brazil and I doubt if I'll ever see Tideland.
I like Gilliam's style in this film. There are elements of Time Bandits, such as his stage, and elements of Baron Munchausen (the father daughter dynamic). As with all of Gilliam's films it's out of control and wild and dark and old.
It's a hard movie to watch though, and not ponder Heath Ledger. It was his last film, and his energy is so noticeable it's hard not to leave a little saddened. His character adds vivacity to the film that wasn't there before he's on screen. Christopher Plummer is wonderful to see again, I can't remember the last movie I'd seen him in, but he's powerful and weak as only a man of his caliber could be. In a time when all old and bearded men on film are being portrayed by either Michael Gambon, Christopher Lee, or Ian McKellan, it's nice to have Plummer in there as Dr. Parnassus.
The whole movie is about bets between the devil (Tom Waits) and Dr. Parnassus. One of which involves Dr. Parnassus' daughter Valentina, a.k.a. Scrumpy.
The woman who plays Scrumpy, Lily Cole, looks far too much like Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) for me. I spent the whole movie thinking I needed to look her up on IMDB to make sure they weren't one and the same.
The movie is rounded out with a few characters who help/harm the bets - Tony (played by Heath Ledger, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Colin Ferrell), Percy (Verne Troyer) and Anton (Andrew Garfield). Percy is memorable, and Tony is hard to take your eyes off, charismatic.
Like a lot of Gilliam's movies, you want to think there's a message to take away, but there isn't. It's a different type of eye candy. It's lovely to watch and ponder, but not a movie I'll watch often or even again, but I'm glad to say I've seen it. It was fascinating watching Depp downplay his normally over the top charisma. It was interesting seeing a director use 4 actors to portray one character. I hadn't seen that before, and I liked it. It was done well and appropriately.
I recommend it. It's dark and lovely and fun for the eyes.