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EntertainmentNutz Feature Film Review

Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (International Version)
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (International Version)
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Release Date: December 17, 2004
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Brad Silberling
Screenwriter:
Robert Gordon, Daniel Handler
Starring: Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep, Billy Connolly, Jennifer Coolidge, Liam Aiken, Emily Browning, Timothy Spall, Luis Guzman, Craig Ferguson, Cedric the Entertainer, Jude Law (voice of Lemony Snicket)
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
MPAA Rating: PG (for thematic elements, scary situations and brief language)
Official Website: UnfortunateEventsmovie.com

Plot Summary: After Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire's parents perish in a terrible fire, they are placed in the care of Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), an actor, evil genius, and master of disguise. At every turn, Count Olaf hatches another outrageous plot to steal the orphans' vast fortune, and he's not going to let anybody stand in his way -- not Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly), not Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep), and certainly not the children themselves! The resulting series of unfortunate events is likely to leave viewers of all ages in utter hysterics.

Reviewed by Peter Veugelaers © 2005
- Who said they don't make 'em like they used to?

 Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, based on the popular children’s books, begins with a disclaimer. You could be forgiven for thinking that the theatre was going to play a short animated children’s film before the main feature began. What we see is the beginning of a story about an elf. This is supposed to be the feature film, you would think. But it does not smell or look like Lemony Snicket. And Lemony Snicket (Jude Law) knows it. He is the narrator warning the audience that the following movie is not going to be about happy little elves. He tries to comfort us with the thought that we could abandon the screening and go to theatre two (if you are in a multiplex, of course). Mr Snicket has his reasons for such an admonition. The upcoming story contains troubles aplenty. Comparisons with Harry Potter are inevitable. 

 The direct reference to the audience is comforting when we are aware of so much propounded mayhem about to ensue. It prepares viewers for what might be and tantalises to the possibilities. The narrator who is telling the story reminds us that this is fiction. As the title suggests the series of unfortunate events involve orphans whose family died when their house is almost burnt to a cinder. Violet, Claus and a cute toddler are taken to their uncle Count Olaf (Jim Carey) for guardianship.

 The Count is famous for inventions but is a nasty piece of work. He immediately puts his new arrivals to chores around his shadowy and impoverished abode in a street of much pleasanter looking homes (the contrasting milieu will make better sense by movie’s end). The movie hoodwinks us into not taking Olaf’s villainy seriously. After all this is Jim Carey up to his idiosyncratic brand of slapstick off beat humour with a surface shade of horror going slightly pale and barmy, particularly evident in the movie’s beginning when he meets and integrates the children into his house. Humorous is how the toddler gets subtitled lines when he goes ga-ga at Olaf’s dislike for the child, shades of Look Who’s Talking minus the smultz and add a touch of cleverness.

 But Olaf is unsuitable for the task. He will pursue Violet (Emily Browning) and Claus (Liam Aiken) cunningly, taking two very funny Carey-esque guises, after they are taken to their Uncle Monty, who collects snakes, and Aunt Josephine. They are played by Billy Connelly, in a likeable, straight-laced performance, and a good as always Meryl Streep, who plays her character’s neurosis with understatement and humour.

 In Lemony Snicket relatives are weird and life consists of dark misadventures although the form of them is hardly scary. Violet and Claus long for their deceased parents and set up memorials for them as a way of escaping from these “unfortunate events”. This is their sanctuary from misfortune, the place where there is good in the world. And so is Violet’s ability with science and Claus’ knack for remembering what he has read. This offers young viewers role models, characters who use their brains. They are positive messages for children and families and when you look closer at how the message is organised in the movie’s structure, the ideas are thoughtfully in the places unforeseen at first. This movie has its share of eye pleasing action, including a stand out exciting scene involving a train about to hurtle into a car with the orphans aboard, flavoured by an appropriate dark imbued look, which is effectively balanced with entertaining characters, with Jim Carey at his old best and performing three personas – a treat for fans.

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