Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

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It's unfortunate that I didn't like it - Lemony Snicket

May 2, 2005 (Updated May 2, 2005)
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Pros:Beautiful background, Streep and Carey are pretty decent

Cons:Slow moving plot, child actors seem apathetic, kind of depressing

The Bottom Line: It's pretty, but...yawn.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

This film is based on a popular book series, with which I was unfamiliar until the film was introduced. There seemed to be a lot of hype about this movie before it came out, but I have heard very little afterwards. I refrained from reading any reviews because I knew I intended to see the movie. Seeing as I was having a series of very unfortunate final exams in my own life, this seemed like a good pick for Friday evening after my Property exam. However, I was rather disappointed with this movie, but not necessarily because of the unfortunate events.

The Plot
The film starts with the narrator (Jude Law) warning the audience that this movie will be detailing a series of very unfortunate events. If you want to see a movie about a happy little elf, he tells us, you should head to a different theater. Viewers are then introduced to Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire, three children from a wealthy family whose parents are tragically killed in a fire at the very beginning of the movie. Violet (Emily Browning) is a great inventor, Klause (Liam Aiken) is a great reader and remembers everything he reads in books, and Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman) enjoys biting things with her four sharp teeth.

After their parents’ death, the children are first sent to live with Count Olaf, (Jim Carey) an eccentric actor who forces them to clean and do chores. After he locks them in a parked car across a railroad track and stumble across a book on inheritance laws, the children start to realize that this perhaps Count Olaf is not taking them in out of the goodness of his heart.

The rest of the movie details the Boudelaire’s experiences with other bizarre distant relatives, including the paranoid Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streepe) and the reptile loving Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly). Throughout the film, Count Olaf continues to pop up in weird and unique character disguises. There is also an overarching mystery which deals with fire and spyglasses, and the children begin to wonder what connection all these unusual characters have with their parents.

The Good
The film is visually very interesting. The dark, gloomy, backgrounds remind me of pages of a book, which probably helps with the translation of book to film. The story is really quite creative and imaginative, and the interesting scenery helps create a unique world in which the story is taking place.

Sometimes Carey grates on my nerves, sometimes I like his films. He was a good choice for the character of Count Olaf, who is completely over the top anyway. In a way it is ironic that Jim Carey was playing the part of an actor who overacts, because that is often how I think of him. In any case, his different characters were interesting and eccentric, and his portrayal of the character as over-the-top worked well with the overall mood of the movie. I also thought Streep did a great job as Aunt Josephine. Her character was intensely paranoid, and she plays the role wonderfully. She warns the children not to use the doorknobs, because they might explode into a million tiny pieces. When they step in front of the refrigerator, she warns them it may fall on them. Her delivery and timing is great, just as you are coming off of one joke she hits you with another that is a bit more subtle. It was a shame that she didn’t get more screen time, but really, I’m not sure how much longer the paranoia humor would have stayed funny.

Also, the last ten minutes of the film do a nice job of tying everything up. Often a film’s ending tends to be the weakest part, but here I felt that it was the strongest.

The Unfortunate
I’m not really sure what it was exactly, but for some reason this film just didn’t come together for me as well as I had hoped. The film is a bit slow to develop, and the events didn’t seem very well connected to me. I read somewhere that the events of the movie were split into different books, and the movie kind of has that feel. Each “segment” of the film has a beginning and an end to some extent, and the movie kind of loses momentum in between them. I basically felt like we were starting over three different times. It was kind of like, oh, here we go, I guess there is another unfortunate event.

I feel a bit bad about this, but the two older children cast in this movie didn’t impress me. Klaus and Violet were a bit blah as characters, and I found it difficult to emotionally attach myself. The movie kind of places the world against the children, but as a viewer I didn’t really feel a desire to root for the underdog. Although the children use their talents to save themselves on several occasions, they seem a bit like they are just going through the motions.

From what I have read about the books themselves, it seems that they make use of a dry, eccentric humor. I think perhaps the problem is that this didn’t translate well to screen. The movie came across as apathetic, despite the efforts of Carey and Streep to inject some life with it. This feeling did not make it enjoyable to watch.

Suitability for Children
I’m not sure who exactly the intended audience is for this film, but I really think it is a bit dark for young children. The kids go through multiple deaths in a short time, and are left basically alone. I would think this would be a frightening concept for a young child, although no graphic violence is shown. I’m also not sure if children will get much of the humor of the film. If you plan on seeing this with your young child, I would take a moment before to mention that the children’s parents and relatives die, but stress that it is just an exaggerated story. Older children who are fans of the Harry Potter type films and books are probably the best audience for this film.

I found this to be a film that didn’t reach its full potential. It has gorgeous scenery, some really original characters, and an interesting plot. Yet, it still kind of plodded along and I was ready for it to end long before it did. Although the events were very fortunate, they really weren’t very exciting.

Recommend this product? No

Viewing Format: VHS

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