Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
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I'd been hearing about this series of books for quite some time and finally caved in recently and bought book the first through book the sixth of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. They're very short and easy reads, being designed for older kids as they are, so I breezed through them fairly rapidly. I'd heard this movie version was kinda sorta based on the first three, so decided to watch it before picking up the rest of the series. So, my perspective on the movie is from having watched it while the books were fresh in my mind.
I will care for these orphans as if they were actually wanted!
The title Unfortunate Events refers to what befalls the 3 Baudelaire children after a suspicious fire kills their parents. They are shuffled from guardian to guardian and go through fantasticly bizarre events. The first guardian is the dreaded Count Olaf, a decidedly evil and wicked man who is after their fortune... a fortune which is being watched over by the obtuse banker, Mr. Poe (Timothy Spall). So, what transpires is the near deaths and whatnot of the children and their guardians, and how the children manage to keep escaping.
Throughout the movie, Jude Law narrates from the shadows in the personae of Lemony Snicket. Snicket has been chronicling events and sending them to his publisher as they transpire. It's a very comical narrative while dealing with unfunny events. He repeatedly warns us that this is not a pretty story with dancing elves, and suggests we just turn the blasted thing off immediately and watch something a bit happier.
Violet Baudelaire is the eldest of the siblings at age 14, and the inventor of the trio. A bit of a pint-sized MacGuyver, once she ties her hair back to think, she can come up with just about any device out of what happens to be on hand. Emily Browning (Ned Kelly, Darkness Falls) plays Violet very well, indeed. She had all the nuances down and didn't disrupt my visualization from the books at all. She was a very good choice for this part.
Klause Baudelaire the second eldest and is the bookworm of the group, reading and retaining anything he can get his hands on so he has a wealth of knowledge far greater than the usual child. I liked Liam Aiken a great deal in Sweet November and was happy to see him in the role of Klaus. He brings to the table the needed look of an inquisitive and intelligent child.
Then there's little Sunny... the infant with the sharp teeth who loves nothing more than to have something hard to chew on. The Hoffman twins, Kara & Shelby, switch off playing Sunny here. I loved this character dearly in the books, but I'm afraid she didn't transfer well to film. There is one brief shot near the beginning of her hanging from a table by her teeth which cracked me up and gave me hope, but other than that she was just kind of there. In the books, her siblings instinctively understand that ayjim might mean I love my suit, whereas in the movie these one-syllable muttering are deciphered via subtitles and don't quite have the same effect.
I understand that film is a different medium than print and that to transfer from one to the other means things need to change and sometimes swap places in the timeline in order to make them work. This one is no different. Still, I have to admit that even though they did manage to keep most of the over-all dark feel to the story, the swapping of event-order and even adding in new events bothered me. I can't help it, it did. They covered 3 books in one film which cut out way too much of the build up of the book. While I don't see how they could have done it any differently, I just didn't like them doing that.
All that I ask is that you do every little thing that pops into my head, while I enjoy the enormous fortune your parents left behind.
The other thing I was less than thrilled with was the casting Jim Carrey in the role of Count Olaf. He could have been a fine Olaf had he chose too, but instead he played it with his idiotic over-the-top dramatics which damn near ruined the character completely.
Have you noticed how none of our relatives are related to us?
The lessors roles, those of the other two guardians, were cast much better. Billy Connolly is their Uncle Montgomery the herpetologist and pretty much fit the good-natured character, although the episode was far too short to really get his personality across. Casting Meryl Streep as the neurotic Aunt Josephine was sheer brilliance. Streep handled this part so deftly that her idiosyncracies didn't require any longer to be understood in full.
For having been mainly involved in television though, Director Brad Silberling did a pretty damn good job, excepting of course letting Carrey get all goofy upside an evil character's personality. Silberling did manage, like I said, to keep the dark tone of the books in spite of everything else so I suppose he is to be applauded for that.
Unfortunate Events is Rated PG for thematic elements, scary situations and brief language. Very brief language. I would swear to it, but I believe this is limited to things like damn. Although it is dark and deals with children in danger, it is for children. The underlying theme that I come away with is that no matter how bad you think you've got it, there is always someone in a worse situation.... and that there is always a way to overcome adversity. Still, if your kids are old enough to read, I'd suggest getting them the books instead of the movie.
I'm going with about 3 1/2 stars for this movie and rounding up to 4. While there is much I did not like about it, the over-all feel of the story is still there and there were some outstanding performances. Go ahead, if you must, but surely you'd rather rent something with dancing happy elves...?
At times the world can seem an unfriendly and sinister place. But believe us when we say there is much more good in it than bad. And what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events, may in fact, be the first steps of a journey
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