LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
Review by Gordon Justesen
Jim Carrey, Jude Law, Liam Aiken, Emily Browning, Timothy Spall, Catherine O'Hara,
Billy Connolly, Cedric the Entertainer, Luis Guzman, Jennifer Coolidge, Meryl
Director: Brad Silberling
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: April 26, 2005
must say, you are a gloom-looking bunch. Why so sad?"
parents just died."
yes. How very, very tragic. Wait! Wait! Give me that line again, while it's
fresh in my head."
parents just died?"
If you enjoy films
which carry a genuinely bizarre quality and unfold in a slightly unpredictable
way, then Lemony Snicket's
A Series of Unfortunate Events is the perfect film for you entirely.
The world of Lemony
Snicket, aka author Daniel Handler, is one of unique imagination. Think Roald
Dahl, mixed in with the world of Harry Potter, only with a slightly more
demented atmosphere, and you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about. The
author himself always made sure to inform the reader of the gloominess that was
to be expected from his stories in the form of a message on the back of the
For sure, the movie
adaptation follows the same procedure through a clever and misleading opening.
It opens with what appears to be an animated short titled "The Littlest Elf".
Then a voiceover pops up in the form of Lemony Snicket himself (voice provided
by Jude Law), who informs us that if we've come to see a movie about a happy
little elf, then we have stepped into the wrong theater, or in this case, bought
the wrong DVD.
The tale Mr.
Snicket has intended to tell us is that of the three Baudelaire children, whose
parents have just died in horrendous house fire. The three newly orphaned kids
are comprised of Violet (Emily Browning) who loves to invent, Klaus (Liam Aiken)
who loves to read, and infant Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman) who, with only two
teeth, loves to...well...bite things. She also carries a good level of
the three kids seem to take the news rather well. The family banker, Mr. Poe
(Timothy Spall) informs them that they will be living with their nearest
relative. The new caretaker is the much mysterious Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), an
actor of sorts who's living in a gothic home which seems to be falling down
slowly but surely. Upon meeting their new guardian, the children grow extremely
Count Olaf claims
that he's either their fourth cousin three times removed or a third cousin four
times removed. He has but one wish; for the kids to do any and every command
that comes to his brain. His real plan is to rid himself of them so that he can
get his hands on the enormous fortune they're entitled to as a result of their
parents' death. And he's mean if he doesn't get what he wants, as demonstrated
during a dinner of pasta made by the kids, when the Count demanded roast beef,
or as he puts it-"the Swedish term for BEEF that has been ROASTED!"
When it's revealed
to the Count that he can't officially get his hands on the money unless the
children are dead, he proceeds to do just that. The three children are then sent
to their actual close relative, Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly), a herpetologist
who shares a mansion with a vast amount of pet snakes and other reptiles. Then a
stranger shows up in their midst, Olaf in an outlandish disguise, and the Uncle
is soon met with an ugly demise.
incident, the Baudelaires are then sent to Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep), a
phobic-plagued woman who lives in a mansion alongside a rocky coast and over a
constant stormy sea. Olaf isn't too far behind them, meeting up with the
children in a sea full of leeches. Once the Count discovers that the money will
go to the children once at the age of 18, or if one of them becomes a husband or
spouse, he hatches yet another devious plan.
Olaf's final plot
involves marrying Violet in a wedding ceremony, disguised as a scene in a town
play. If Violet refuses, young Sunny will be plunged to her death at the Count's
request. While Klaus executes a rescue attempt, secrets concerning the parents'
death will be revealed.
I can certainly
gather that devoted readers the original three Lemony Snicket adventures "The
Bad Beginning", "The Reptile Room" and "The Wide Window", will admire the film
more than those who haven't read them. On the other hand, I found it to be a
most enjoyable piece of movie entertainment without ever reading a single line
of the original stories. There is plenty to admire in this film, and I will
point out two key factors.
First off, there's
Jim Carrey as Count Olaf. Carrey had quite a year in 2004, most of which came as
a result of his tour de force in Eternal
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which was a unique, quiet performance that
seemed new even when compared to his previous dramatic turns in The
Truman Show and The Majestic. It felt as if it had been a while since Carrey tapped
into his trademark zaniness.
As Count Olaf,
Carrey has found the perfect role to delve his manically funny persona into.
Since Olaf is an actor who attempts a few disguises along the way, Carrey is
effortless in creating multiple deceptive personalities. His one disguise as a
supposed "research assistant" is a pure howler.
Secondly, the movie carries a most outstanding production value.
Director Brad Silberling (Moonlight Mile,
City of Angels) was no doubt an admirer of the original stories, and wanted
to get the visualization of the world of Lemony Snicket just right. Along with
production designer Rick Heinrichs (Hulk,
Planet of the Apes) and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Ali,
Sleepy Hollow), Silberling has accomplished in doing what he set out for
with amazing results. The movie scored a number of Oscar nominations for
technical categories, and even won an Oscar for Best Makeup, which I can tell
you was well deserved.
Highlighted by a marvelous production scale and Jim Carrey's
over-the-top brilliance, Lemony Snicket's
A Series of Unfortunate Events is wondrous piece of cinematic entertainment,
much like that of the Harry Potter
movies. Like J.K. Rowling's famed series, I can see a possible franchise to be
built out of Daniel Handler's work, which is most welcomed.
BONUS: Dustin Hoffman pops up in a funny cameo as a drama critic.
visual brilliance with this magnificent presentation which is likely to be one
of the top video performances of the year. Just about every frame of the movie
presents a treat for the eyes, and the level of detail that has gone into every
shot is delivered in sheer beauty. The anamorphic picture is stunning and clear
throughout, with absorbing colors to spare. An accomplishment, not just for
Paramount, but for DVDs in general.
Equal praise for
the sound performance. The 5.1 mix does a knockout job of practically immersing
you into the world presented to you in the movie. This is an incredibly lively
audio mix, packed with sound jolts left and right. The score by Thomas Newman is
delivered in glorious form, as is dialogue and frequent sequences involving top
notch technical work. Surround sound quality is at a pure high.
issued two editions of this movie; this 2-disc Collector's Edition as well as
the traditional one disc offering. Though it will cost you a few more bucks,
this fully loaded 2-disc set is worth it, especially if you're a dear fan of the
Disc One features
two commentary tracks; one with director Brad Silberling, the second with
Silberling and author Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket). Also included is a
three part featurette titled "Bad Beginnings", featuring a funny segment titled "Building
a Bad Actor", which shows Carrey effortlessly getting into character...multiple
ones that is. This disc also features deleted scenes and outtakes.
Disc Two has even
more, starting with a five-part featurette titled "A Terrible Tragedy", three
featurettes on the sound design, four special effects featurettes, and three
This package also
includes a copy of the original book by Lemony Snicket, "The Bad Beginning".