The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Parent Guide
The gambling Dr. Parnassus discovers that one ill-advised bet can beget an eternity of escalating antes, making this wild ride through the imagination an often dark and disturbing narrative.
Parent Movie Review
It’s a constant battle between good and evil in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, although it’s not always clear who is winning.
The immortal Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is the purveyor of a traveling sideshow housed in a lumbering, moving monstrosity that opens up to reveal a gaudy and tattered stage. He works alongside his diminutive, right-hand man Percy (Vern Troyer), Anton (Andrew Garfield), an urchin he salvaged from the streets, and his daughter Valentina (Lucy Cole). Together they invite audience members to cross into the world of their own imagination through a magical mirror. Once inside the fantastical realm, each individual is guided by the thoughts of the psychic and given the chance to choose between good and evil. Picking good results in happiness. Siding with the devil often brings about a more deadly outcome.
But despite the doctor’s apparent good intentions, he is hiding a dark secret from his maturing daughter. As a younger man, he sold his soul in exchange for everlasting life. Since then, he’s engaged in a continuous bout of wagers with the devilish Mr. Nick (Tom Waits), including one in which he promised to give up any offspring who reached the age of 16. With Valentina’s fateful birthday only days away, Dr. Parnassus is ready to make another bargain with the fiend in order to free his daughter from his impulsive pact. The latest gamble requires the foolhardy father to win over five souls in a predetermined time.
Meanwhile the troupe comes across a man dangling from a bridge with a rope around his neck. Cutting him loose, Percy, Anton and Valentina rescue the unlucky victim. And despite the two men’s better judgment, Valentina insists they load the injured party into the back of the wagon. When he regains consciousness, Tony (Heath Ledger) proves to be a capable con man in his own right and an asset to the struggling cast who are hungry for food as well as customers.
Unfortunately Heath Ledger’s unexpected death in January 2008, stalled this movie’s production. Put on hold for several months, filming did not resume until actors Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp agreed to play versions of Tony in the imaginary world. However, the need to rework the script (in order to incorporate the new actors) may have added to the random and wandering nature of this storyline.
While the special effects and sets in this production offer plenty of intriguing visual scenes, the film also includes several depictions of hangings, the use of satanic symbols and numerous scenes of smoking (including a teen). Some crude sexual content and the portrayal of a nude teen covered only by carefully placed hair are also portrayed. Walking a tightrope between the rewards of good and enticements of evil, the traveling show’s customers and cast experience perilous moments as well.
Yet as titillating as it may be to dance with the devil, the gambling Dr. Parnassus discovers that one ill-advised bet can beget an eternity of escalating antes, making this wild ride through the imagination an often dark and disturbing narrative.Directed by Terry Gilliam. Starring Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Heath Ledger, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell. Running time: 121 minutes. Theatrical release December 25, 2009. Updated July 17, 2017
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus rated PG-13? The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for violent images, some sensuality, language and smoking.
Characters, including a teen, repeatedly smoke. Others drink on numerous occasions, often to the point of drunkenness. A girl is shown in low cut dresses and her bra. She is also seen with only her long hair as a covering (brief depiction of frontal nudity). A character hits the inflated "breasts" of a man dressed in drag. Policemen, wearing skirts and heels, expose their pantyhose-covered buttocks. Characters engage in fistfights, slapping, biting and hitting. Moments of peril occur often. Explosions imply the death of characters. A man is hit with a horsewhip. A woman kills a chicken by breaking its neck. Dead cattle are shown floating in a river. A man attempts suicide. Several characters are hung by the neck. A man has satanic marks drawn on his forehead. Individuals engage in scams and con artist activities. A man’s blood-covered apron is seen, along with the depiction of a bloody nose. Characters briefly discuss a woman’s death during childbirth. A teenaged girl engages in sexual activity with an adult male (on screen action is not seen). The script contains profanities, scatological slang, slurs and terms of Deity.
Page last updated July 17, 2017
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Parents' Guide
After passing through the magical mirror, characters in this film experience their own imaginations. What things would you experience if you were able to walk into your imagination?
What impact does lying have on the characters in this film? How does one untruth lead to the next? Why is it so difficult for Dr. Parnassus to refuse a new wager from Mr. Nick? What effect can compulsive gambling have on individuals and families?
During the film, a character swallows a hollow tube as a way of avoiding the deadly effects of a hanging. Why would this not work?
The most recent home video release of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus movie is April 27, 2010. Here are some details…
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is releasing to DVD and Blu-ray on April 27, 2010.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus releases on DVD and Blu-ray with the following bonus materials:
- Film Commentary with Director Terry Gilliam
- Deleted Scene with Optional Commentary by Terry Gilliam
- Introduction by Terry Gilliam
- Heath Ledger Wardrobe Test with Optional Commentary by Terry Gilliam
- Heath Ledger Interview
- Behind the Mirror, Building the Monastery
- The Artwork of Doctor Parnassus
- Doctor Parnassus Around the World
- Cast and Crew Presentation on Stage
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus on Blu-ray also offers:
- The Imaginarium of Terry Gilliam
- Heath Ledger and Friends—Cast & Crew remember their friend
- “The Drunk” Multi-Angle Progression Sequence
- Creating a scene from storyboard to VFX
- movieIQ+sync and BD-Live
Related home video titles:
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a fantasy story that employs many visual effects and unusual images, similar to the movie MirrorMask. A much more family friendly exploration of the imagination takes place in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium when a store owner decides to retire and leave his magical toyshop to his young assistant. Actor Christopher Plummer plays another fatherly role as the parent of the singing von Trapp family in The Sound of Music. He also stars in the romantic mystery The Lake House and lends his voice to the crusty explorer Charles Muntz in the animated film Up.