As a fan of Terry Gilliam (Brazil, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), I dived into this film as open minded as a weird cinephile could be. Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) has an itinerant scene where he entertains people with his uncharacteristic tricks. Helped with Anton (Andrew Garfield) and his beautiful daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) Parnassus can make you realize your greatest dreams within his imaginarium. As spectacular as it sounds, the feature doesn't interest anyone. The little troop has to work very hard to earn their living. Until one day, they discover an interesting man hanging under a bridge. His charisma will bring them back in business and help Parnassus to close his pact with the Devil (Tom Waits).
Packed with extraordinary references to Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal and Federico Fellini's clownesque characters, Terry Gilliam's film works well despite some lows that Ledger's death may have provoked in the production.
As you must know Gilliam had to use Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law to fill up Ledger's empty shoes. Well, the replacements work in the way they are inserted in the parallel world of Parnassus they don't make such a big step down.
The story of Parnassus and the Devil reminds us the particular chess confrontation of the Reaper and the knight in The Seventh Seal. There's also the "forain's" troop that populated many of Bergman's films, representing his other cherish form of Art: Theater.
The most irritating parts of the film are the parallel world sequences where the visual effects are too CGI/computerized for my nostalgic tastes. I would have preferred a surreal Fellinesque king of fake world where even the water is represented with moving painted plywood...
Although, it was refreshing to have a new Terry Gilliam feature. It made us forget about his less than average Tideland.