Movie: Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events
Directed By Brad Silberling; Written By Robert Gordon
Starring Jim Carrey, Liam Aiken, Emily Browning (Dreamworks)
Reviewed by Rusty Pipes
A Series of Unfortunate Events is uniquely bizarre and many may find its sense of the macabre somewhat repellent. However, there's a clue dropped early on about how to take the story. The executor of the Baudelaire will is named Mr. Poe. This is Edgar Allen Poe for children.
Clearly this movie's aiming for the success of the Harry Potter series but a closer relative is Jumanji from several years ago. Director Brad Silberling has given this production of Lemony Snicket's (Daniel Handler's) book a feel rather like Tim Burton would have. Or perhaps it's more of a Terry Gilliam feel. Credit Production Designer Rick Heinrichs for this. It's dark and yet familiar; you can't quite identify what year it is or what city you are in. You are surrounded by all kinds of strangely mutated technology, like a 64 Chrysler Imperial with five rearview mirrors and a tiny reel to reel tape deck built into the dash. Lemony Snicket himself (Jude Law in silhouette) is always surrounded by giant clockwork gears and is tapping out the story on an antique typewriter.
The central figures are Violet and Klaus Baudelaire. Violet can invent anything out of materials at hand and Klaus knows all sorts of useful trivia because he reads so much. They and their baby sister were orphaned by a mysterious fire. Their parents' fortune is to be at the disposal of their new guardian, the gangly and frizzy-haired Count Olaf. Played with a duplicitous and double-jointed zeal by Jim Carrey, Olaf is clearly focused on their demise. The children escape from his clutches and are given over to other eccentric relatives but Olaf keeps trying; the movie meanders through a half dozen of his curious plots against them.
Purists will point out that the story doesn't follow the books' storyline that closely, but as a movie it hangs together well. Jim Carrey alone would make the movie worth watching but it features a lot of acting talent besides him. Not the least of these is Emily Browning and Liam Aiken playing Violet and Klaus Baudelaire. Browning especially, who seems like a pre-teen Angelina Jolie, displays a strength that will ensure her appearance in movies for years to come. Billy Connolly is charmingly reptilian as Uncle Monty and Meryl Streep is surprisingly comic as the monumentally ditzy Aunt Josephine. Dustin Hoffman even shows up momentarily in the audience at Olaf's play.
It's weirdly perverse and yet charming, but definitely not a happy time elf movie for tiny tots. Yes, it's Poe for children; we were warned.
Did I enjoy the movie? Yes I admit I delighted in the torment of these orphans.
Would I go to see it again? My daughter says the books are definitely better but I bet she'll watch it again when the DVD comes out.
© 2005 - Rusty Pipes