January 29, 2005

Movie Review: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

An apparent attempt to fill the fantasy void left by the end of the Lord of the Rigns films and the shift from fall to summer of the Harry Potter franchise, the first of a proposed series of Lemony Snicket films falls into place. And who better to lead the charge than Jim Carrey? The movie has it's heart in the right place, but the result is a decidedly mixed bag.

This series of events is rather dark, very dark, actually. It tells the tale of three young children, orphaned by a mysterious fire which took away their parents. Through a literal interpretation of the law, the kids, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, are turned over to their nearest relative, the sinister Count Oloff. What follows is a sequence of events where the kids are placed in harm's way only for them to figure a way out of it, despite the ever present Oloff and his attempts to rid himself of them in favor of inheriting their fortune.

It is slightly repetitious as the sequence of events becomes rather predictable, and it feels like a lot had been cut. Now, I have no knowledge of the books to fall back on, but when you cram three books worth of material into a film that is less than 2 hours, their is bound to be a lot left on the cutting room floor. This ultimately hurts the film by trying to cram so much into it's run time.

The strongest element of the film is the set design, it is absolutely gorgeous. It looks as if it could be in a dark corner of the Harry Potter universe, and despite that, it still stands as it's own world. The twisted trees, the odd people, a sort of alternate universe to early 20th century Earth. Next, we get decent performances from the kids, especially Emily Browning as the inventive Violet. The baby brings the whimsy back into the film each time it threatens to become to dark.

I also enjoyed the way it was narrated in storybook fashion, including the disclaimer at the beginning of the film. It adds to the Grimm's Fairy Tale like style. Jude Law provides the voice of the narrator, Lemony Snicket, although we never see him except in silhouette. Finally we have the star, Jim Carrey, who does a fine job inhabiting numerous roles throughout the narrative. But, as entertaining as that can be, it threatens to get to close to the point of overkill.

Bottomline. A very darkly entertaining fairy tale that I was a little bit deeper, but still delivers the goods. Be sure to stay through the credits, as it is one of the most inventive I have seen in a long time.



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