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Overall Rating
4.06

Awesome41.25%
Worth A Look: 33.75%
Just Average: 17.5%
Pretty Crappy: 4.38%
Sucks: 3.13%

11 reviews, 94 user ratings


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Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Peter Sobczynski

"Finally, an Unfortunate Event in Paramount's favor."
5 stars

Let us now consider the plight-and perhaps shed a tear-for the unfortunate Baudelaire orphans and the miseries that seem to relentlessly follow them around. The three children-eldest Violet is a clever inventor, Klaus has a gift for recalling facts from the endless number of books that he has read and toddler Sunny is a expert at the art of biting-are smart and resourceful and for a time, it seemed as if their lives would be perfect. As those who have read their history, as chronicled in a series of books by one Lemony Snicket, this prediction would prove to be grossly inaccurate once a suspicious fire killed their parents and destroyed their home. With nothing left of their former lives but each other and an enormous inheritance, they were taken in by their closest relative (in terms of location only), the resoundingly greedy, unpleasant and untalented actor known as Count Olaf. After getting out of his clutches, the children go from relative to relative, but each stop finds them facing even more miseries-including, but not limited to, snakes, leeches, oncoming trains, shotgun weddings, inheritance fraud, mysterious deaths and even more mysterious fires. Those, however, are nothing compared to Count Olaf, who continually reappears in a never-ending effort to take away their inheritance for himself.

This is bleak material, without a doubt, and it may come as a shock to those who have never heard of Olaf, Lemony or the Baudelaires before when they discover that these incidents are in the service of a series of books aimed squarely at children. Once they encounter the film version of the first three stories, “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”, I suspect that many of those types will immediately complain that it is far too dark for youngsters and will provide them with nothing more than nightmare fuel. What they fail to understand (or to remember from their own childhoods) is that kids, once they get over the early traumas of the likes of “Bambi” and “Dumbo”, love things that are icky, creepy and downright gross and handle it much better than most adults do. The best children’s writers, from the Brothers Grimm to Roald Dahl to the genius who created the line “Great green gobs of grimy, greasy gopher guts” and Mr. Snicket, have recognized that fact and that is why their works are still beloved to this day while the majority of the blander, more inoffensive titles tend to fall by the wayside.

The problem is that many of the movie studios are run by precisely those kinds of nervous-nellie adults and when they decide to bring one of those dark tales to the screen, they tend to remove all of those memorably malevolent moments in an effort to make it more “kid-friendly”. These “improvements” rarely work and all they wind up doing is dumbing-down the film to the level of the other mediocrities that are force-fed to kids in the guise of “family entertainment”. (To prove this, try reading Dahl’s immortal “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and then watch the film adaptation “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”-the movie isn’t that bad but it is a mere shadow of the original book.) In an exceedingly fortunate series of events, the makers of the Lemony Snicket film have resisted the urge to tamper with material that has already proven to be successful and the result is a wonderful film for viewers of all ages-a creepy, icky and hilarious work that gives its younger viewers far more credit for handling off-kilter material than most adult-oriented films do with theirs.

Part of this is due to the spot-on casting of the key figures. When reading a book, everyone sort of mentally casts the roles in their heads but it is hard to imagine anyone more perfectly suited for the role of Count Olaf than Jim Carrey. This is one of those characters that is impossible to play too broadly-his every thought, word and deed is a study in wretched excess-and Carrey comes up with a full-throttle approach that most other actors would have been afraid to even attempt. Like his turn as the Grinch (a great performance in an obscene film), he is buried under tons of makeup and utilizes a voice inspired by Boris Karloff; however, this is more than just a stunt along the lines of Tom Hanks’s multi-role appearance in “The Polar Express”. Consider his elaborate disguises as the least convincing Italian since Chico Mark and, later, as a sea-salty named Captain Sham. These are much harder to pull off than they would seem since the joke behind Olaf is that he is so vain that even when he is completely in “character”, he is unable to hide his own self for even a second. Most actors would have spent all their efforts devising the new characters and their looks at the expense of the old but Carrey balances the two elements in hilarious fashion.

Beyond Carrey, the film is filled with other nice star turns as well. In perhaps the loosest, goofiest turn of her entire career, Meryl Streep is quite funny as the ultraphobic Aunt Josephine, a woman whose fears run the gamut from the quite reasonable (including exploding stoves and Realtors) to the somewhat more irrational (exploding doorknobs). As the largely unseen Lemony Snicket, Jude Law is droll and fascinating to listen to-if only his Alfie were half as entertaining-and there are nice bits of business from the likes of Billy Connolly, Timothy Spall, Luis Guzman and Catherine O’Hara-all of who are just outsized enough to fit in with their fairy-tale surrounding without calling too much attention to themselves. The biggest performance surprises, however, come from the kids at the center of the story; Liam Aiken, as Klaus, gets the least amount of overt business but lends the story the heart that lurks beneath the grotesqueries and Emily Browning, as Violet, has an aura of gorgeous gloom about her that makes her look like a living, breathing Charles Addams character. Even Kara and Shelby Hoffman, the infants portraying Sunny Baudelaire, are surprisingly effective; most of their laughs come from their dialogue (you’ll see what I mean) but every once in a while, they give a look or a smile that is equally amusing.

Another one of the charms of “Lemony Snicket” is the wonderful look of the enterprise. Equal parts Gothic horror and Tim Burton weirdness, the army of production designers have nicely recreated the absolutely timeless and borderless world of the stories-a world of impossibly looming mansions, bizarre bazaars and auto dashboards that defy description that are all expertly captured by the camerawork of Emmanuel Lubezki in a way that fuses together the sensibilities that he brought to “A Little Princess” and “Sleepy Hollow”. In fact, the only flaw with the film is that the actors and technicians have succeeded so triumphantly in their endeavors that it is sometimes evident that director Brad Silberling, the man behind “Casper” and “City of Angels”, doesn’t quite have the ability to likewise put any sort of distinguishing stamp on the proceedings. He doesn’t do anything wrong-he tells the story smartly and efficiently and never lets the occasional moments of sentiment overwhelm things-but you can’t help but wonder what the results might have been if someone like Terry Gilliam-a far more distinct director whose “Time Bandits” shared many of the same sensibilities as the material here-had been in charge.

That quibble aside, “Lemony Snicket’s An Unfortunate Series of Events” is nearly perfect-not since “The Nightmare Before Christmas” has there been a family-oriented work that so effortlessly combines humor, horror and heart and even throws a genuine surprise or two into the mix for good measure. In fact, like some of the best family films, it has enough genuine adult appeal to ensure it a long life as a cult classic at hours long past the bedtimes of younger viewers. Like so many attempts at a creating a franchise, this film ends on a note that all but announces the inevitable sequel; this is one of the rare times when that feels like a promise rather than a threat.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11348&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/17/04 07:57:27
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User Comments

5/19/08 PAUL SHORTT A SENSE OF FRESHNESS AND DISCOVERY PENETRATES THE GLOOM 3 stars
3/07/08 peter i think this movie was pretty shit i think the baudelaire children should have died 1 stars
2/09/08 Samantha P i really liked this movie, i hope they make more, Jim Carrey was great as Count Olaf! 4 stars
11/03/07 Tiffany Losco Wierd but good. Jim Carreys funny 5 stars
7/14/07 Vincent Ebriega Not just beyond expectations, but beyond a usual juvenille production. 3.5/5. 4 stars
7/11/07 Hello Stranger emily browning is a great actress. cheers to liam as well 5 stars
11/10/06 Bill Hi all 5 stars
10/12/06 Xier Hernandez wow..it was really great...cool !!!!!! 5 stars
8/12/06 Andy Liam Aiken is the best part of the film 5 stars
7/19/06 David Cohen Jim Carrey's haminess ruined what should have been a classic 3 stars
6/27/06 joe koski good movie but the books are better 3 stars
6/18/06 chienne I'd never heard of LS, never read a book, but loved the film and have bought the books 5 stars
6/02/06 Elizabeth Wiley great 5 stars
5/27/06 Sarah its great! 5 stars
5/21/06 Diane P a little boring for me but my daughter loved it 3 stars
5/15/06 ororo manro It is agreat film and i would definatly watch it again,because of the unique acting skills. 1 stars
5/12/06 mr.seraph the only parts i found interested where those which included Jim Carrey 2 stars
4/04/06 John Aster Habig big fan of the books and Carrey but it was a bad adaptation, the kids actually saved it 3 stars
4/03/06 JRE the books are a lot more interresting, however Carrey did an amazing job 3 stars
3/29/06 Monique it was kool 5 stars
3/29/06 Amy cunninghamsy An exellent movie to watch 5 stars
12/11/05 Bad Critic Jim Carrey and Billy Connolly gave good performances, but it only covered three books! 3 stars
10/24/05 Stephanie The Book Is Way Better Should Have Been One Book One Movie Not Three Books In One Movie 2 stars
10/22/05 Deaf. I loved this movie! Jim Carrey is just so good at being evil. 5 stars
8/29/05 ES Started great but fizzled, they should have done a H. potter & stayed closer to the books 3 stars
8/22/05 Quigley the movie ruled. carrey was perfect. liam aiken was horrible. not to mention good CG. 5 stars
8/14/05 John Aster Habig big fan of the books and Carrey but it was a bad adaptation, the kids actually saved it 3 stars
8/08/05 reggie splendid!!! 5 stars
8/05/05 Zack Okay, it was better than "The Grinch, I'll admit, but.... 2 stars
8/01/05 Annie the kids did incredible, carrey was just creepy though 3 stars
7/23/05 summer Liam aiken sucks 1 stars
7/20/05 Sir Dude Loved it. Some of the best parts were deleted scenes, though. 5 stars
7/16/05 Pardue, sara Great Movie, The theme, imagination, and the fun is a enjoyable. 4 stars
7/03/05 Vic bull shit one of carey lesser funny movie...very tedious it dragged on 1 stars
7/02/05 anonymous It is a wonderful movie and Carrey, Browning and Aiken did phenominal! 5 stars
6/20/05 Honestly Movie good. Hated Jim; no one else available? Not looking forward to another with Jim. 3 stars
6/20/05 darick See it (especially if you haven't read the books) 4 stars
6/07/05 Darcy my son loved it 4 stars
6/04/05 Ubu the Ripper A great flick. Carrey is best when he is doing dark humor. 5 stars
5/27/05 JFK great photography and a great jim carrey performance 4 stars
5/27/05 Quigley Jim Carrey shows off his pure film magic in this. a hilarious movie. meryl streep rocked! 5 stars
5/16/05 E-FUNK I hate child-actors, but not a single complaint in this. Carrey fucking owns this. 4 stars
5/10/05 suzie suezetta good movie but not at all like the books 4 stars
5/06/05 ken good movie , very inteeresting 4 stars
5/02/05 Gary Jim Carrey was extraordinary in this 5 stars
4/30/05 Steve Newman seen this film twice - it gets better every time 4 stars
4/26/05 louis ok, but i expect more from jim, so i is good, but can be better 4 stars
4/26/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble Beware of the spyglass. Its not in the books. It was added by the director. I smell sequal. 4 stars
4/19/05 Nicole Baugh I don't really care for Jim Carrey much but this movie was pretty good. 4 stars
4/18/05 Renita Long Fun! 4 stars
4/16/05 Lynnette Stevens We loved this movie! 5 stars
4/09/05 Jillyn It was funny and really cute, and suprisingly followed the books pretty well 5 stars
2/25/05 Mia Griggs Too gloomy - my 5 year old was scared and he likes Harry Potter 3 stars
2/24/05 Evangelica Schnapfenschalz Good, despite that Carrey (better as grinch) is monotonoutsly flat as unrelenting villain. 4 stars
2/16/05 Littlepurch Pleasing adaption of excelent bks.Glad they took enough poetic license to change some bits. 5 stars
2/05/05 Tom Benton Though fans of the books may be disappointed, the film will please the average moviegoer. 3 stars
2/04/05 Ann Klonicki This was a little over the top for young kids 3 stars
2/03/05 Mirella Rodriguez Great Movie, not for young kids 4 stars
2/03/05 craig varney great jim carrey can play anything 5 stars
2/03/05 Debbi Kalstein fun 4 stars
2/02/05 photocopy Buy posters from this movie at AllPosters.com 5 stars
1/29/05 Gretchen Lowe I was expecting something else, I don't like children's movies:) Sorry 4 stars
1/26/05 Angelique Gloster I loved the movie it was the funniest movie I've ever seen! 5 stars
1/26/05 JesseL Nice dark comedy. Carey's aping can get wearisome. Biting baby makes it. 4 stars
1/19/05 ELI Had some stupid parts, but overall it was good! :) Good visuals 4 stars
1/17/05 Paterfam001 Not funny, not scary. I can't see kids getting excited about this movie. 2 stars
1/17/05 Shaira Liam is hott! 5 stars
1/13/05 Andi it totally was not a movie worth seeing again 1 stars
1/12/05 Robby Boyajian Great Movie but, doesn't follow the book to well 4 stars
1/11/05 Seth S. Wow... It was mandititory (for school) but it was WAY better than the books! ***** 5 stars
1/06/05 Angel C. It gave a interesting twist and a new look at the book series. It is a good film, the next 4 stars
1/05/05 Chuck Craig Carry is a little over the top, but acceptable. 4 stars
1/05/05 Mrk If you are a slight bit creative, you will enjoy this film. Very well acted. 5 stars
1/02/05 Lil Poor adaptation 2 stars
1/01/05 NoRefill Pretty bored during movie. Almost fell asleep twice. Just couldn't get into it. 3 stars
1/01/05 Karel cool! 4 stars
1/01/05 Maalstrom Always entertained when Carrey's on scene 4 stars
12/30/04 Jennifer I love the books and the movie was a wonderful adaptation! It was better than awesome! 5 stars
12/30/04 Worthy Slacker WOW! What a surprise. Expected a "formula" kid movie and got a "Top 10 film of the year". 5 stars
12/29/04 Max Trying too hard to be a tim burton film! 2 stars
12/28/04 Tom Ciorciari Like Charles Addams on acid, if that's possible 4 stars
12/27/04 aubree supeer duper 5 stars
12/23/04 Titus A bit rushed, and perhaps a bit too goofy for the story, but still great 4 stars
12/21/04 John Aster Habig Love all 11 books! The kids were well cast, but adults were ok with mediocre adaptation 4 stars
12/21/04 bobbi Excellent movie, a little shallow at the end but probably because of possible sequel 5 stars
12/20/04 Devon Awesome movie, worth your money 5 stars
12/20/04 michaelb14 great story, and great telling 5 stars
12/19/04 Daveman Impressive sets, sometimes funny but pretty pedestrian all in all. 2 stars
12/18/04 Naka HAH! A pleasent surprise. 5 stars
12/18/04 KingNeutron Liam Aiken was the only weak link. Very dark and gripping story. 4 stars
12/18/04 Mahone Awesome sets, but that's about it 3 stars
12/17/04 Littlepurch Some fantastic, some dragged, but everyone should try it and will enjoy some. 4 stars
12/17/04 Cat Love the Books. Love the Film 5 stars
12/16/04 Joe Cool 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  17-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 26-Apr-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  16-Dec-2004




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