Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Specialty Box Office: 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck' Primes HBO Pump, Russell Crowe's 'Water Diviner' Is Spotty Specialty Box Office: 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck' Primes HBO Pump, Russell Crowe's 'Water Diviner' Is Spotty Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

Sherlock Holmes vs. Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 30, 2009 at 12:57AM

One is slick, the other isn't.
9
Thompson on Hollywood

One is slick, the other isn't.

Both period evocations are set in London with largely British casts, complete with horse-drawn carriages, belching smoke, high collars and waistcoats.

One's the authentic vision of a mad artist shooting on a relative shoestring ($30 million) with his heart on his sleeve. The other is a cannily commercial $90-million product launch selling a global name brand. Both opened well this holiday weekend, although one is a studio blockbuster (opening to $65 million) and the other led the new indie field.

Watching Terry Gilliam's brilliant The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, I was swept away to another world, a swirling place of magic and enchantment, where anything can happen--Heath Ledger can turn into Johnny Depp or Jude Law or Colin Firtharrell, for example. I smiled with pleasure at the duel between two wily antagonists for the ages, the Devil (Tom Waits) and Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer). I worried for the fate of Parnassus's daughter (Lily Cole) and her young swain (Andrew Garfield). I loved their bits of theatrical business on their traveling theater on wheels and the beyond-the-mirror dreamscape that allowed Gilliam free visual rein. (Set in an indeterminate contemporary London, the film's feet are planted firmly in a period landscape of the imagination.) And diminutive Verne Troyer reminded me of my early Gilliam favorite, Time Bandits. Look, I'm an avowed Gilliam-phile, no matter how messy and meandering he gets: I even enjoyed his last film with Ledger, The Brothers Grimm.

And Sherlock Holmes , from Joel Silver and Guy Ritchie, was better than I expected, for which I credit Warners production exec-turned-producer Lionel Wigram (who devised the original story and comic book inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) along with Robert Downey, Jr. and his wife Susan, who also produced. Movies like this are huge, expensive logistical projects under heavy studio supervision. This picture is gorgeous: it boasts top-of-the-line cinematographer Philippe Rousselot, production designer Sarah Greenwood, costume designer Jenny Beavan, composer Hans Zimmer and many splendid digital tableaus. The movie expertly blends the satisfying bromance of decadent Holmes (Downey) and straight-arrow Watson (Jude Law), who wants to break away to marry Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly), with a lackluster plot driven by a garden-variety power-mad megalomaniac (Mark Strong), with complications from Holmes love interest, criminal Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). She gets somewhat short shrift: you can see the wheels grinding as the movie balances character bits to appeal to one audience segment against action set pieces for the other.

(At the Movies reviews Holmes and Parnassus.)

Which one of these less-than-perfect films do I like best? You know the answer. I vote for the scrappy original indie.

This article is related to: Independents, Studios, Reviews, Warner Bros./New Line, Sony/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures Classics


E-Mail Updates