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Overall Rating

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 Brad Wilber

"Thank goodness, it's not a feel-good movie"
4 stars

The Baudelaire orphans stories authored by “Lemony Snicket,” aka Daniel Handler, are famous for trusting young readers’ capacity to handle woe unreversed and malefaction unpunished. Given that the books can revel in their own cynicism, they don’t seem tailor-made for a movie franchise. Sure, Hollywood is becoming more willing to evoke a dark atmosphere in a film for children, but adopting a dark attitude remains tantamount to crossing some line in the sand. In LEMONY SNICKET’S A SERIES OF UNFORUNATE EVENTS, a film based on the first three books in a series now nearing a dozen, director Brad Silberling cannily negotiates that line, sacrificing only the nth degree of integrity to the written versions and achieving what most viewers will enjoy to the utmost.

Violet, Klaus, and baby Sunny Baudelaire have lost their parents and their home in a suspicious fire. The dim-bulb family solicitor Mr. Poe (Timothy Spall) initially places them with a distant cousin, Count Olaf (Jim Carrey). Olaf is keenly interested in gaining control of the children’s sizable fortune, so he must pass himself off as ingratiating, but his true colors (abuse and derision) shine through once too often. Poe ends Olaf’s guardianship and shuttles the three kids to a succession of more benign relations, but each time a disguised Olaf pursues, worms his way into the confidence of the other kin, and delivers a coup de guerre. The kids know full well that Olaf would just as soon dispose of them as regain custody, and they have to work overtime to stay out of his clutches. Violet is a budding inventor, Klaus reads voraciously and has a photographic memory, and even Sunny contributes with a natural daring and a viselike bite.

The centrality of Jim Carrey to the proceedings is a bit of a double-edged sword. He’s an obvious casting choice here, where an outsized presence and multiple characters (Olaf, a sycophantic Italian research assistant, and a windburned old salt named Captain Sham) are required. Carrey sails through all the portrayals with undeniable panache, and there’s some effort at integrating himself into the ensemble—I appreciate that he doesn’t completely surrender to self-aggrandizing logorrhea a la Robin Williams. Carrey’s vaudevillian impersonations continually remind us that this is first and foremost a show; I’m prepared to admit that this may provide audiences with a comforting sense of remove from all the nastiness. But, on the other hand, the comedy in Carrey’s ramblings and the way they tend to drift into contemporary American idiom are somewhat at odds with the books’ moribund aura and pristine drawing-room prose. Count Olaf is a murderer, but with the role in Carrey’s hands all we seem to remember about him is that he hasn’t washed a dish in his life and that he always invites his prickly friends over to play. (All you hardcore cameo spotters out there: test yourselves to see if you can identify by name the five actors who play the members of Olaf’s theatrical troupe. I missed only the Hook-Handed Man. The credits are at the end—you’ll want to stay for the duration of those, by the way, since they are brilliantly conceived—so you won’t get any unwanted hints beforehand). A friend told me that Daniel Handler once expressed interest in Alan Rickman for the role of Olaf. Going in that direction might not have given us Hollywood’s ultimate chameleon, but we would not have forgotten that Olaf is a villain.

Where the film does score appropriate laughs using current slang is with the running gag it uses to interpret the wordless coos and shrieks of Baby Sunny (twins Kara and Shelby Hoffman). It’s great stuff. The older kids may come off seeming too placid in the face of so much injustice, but that may be part and parcel of sharing the screen with Jim Carrey and Meryl Streep. Emily Browning as Violet has the full lips and resolute quality of an incipient Jennifer Garner. Liam Aiken (STEPMOM) as Klaus does well at letting us see the wheels turning in his head while he works out the puzzles in his path. Streep is clearly having fun as their ultraphobic Aunt Josephine. Billy Connolly emanates quirky congeniality as the reptile-handling uncle Montgomery Montgomery, but he only serves to prove that there is no safety in being a nice guy.

Silberling has done features (CITY OF ANGELS, MOONLIGHT MILE) but has a much more extensive history in television, and that experience seems to help him manage the potentially whiplash transitions in an episodic story. Plus, he gets the Hollywood demand for sentiment and the reality-pill bleakness of the source material to “shake hands.” For example, the production design is gleefully Gothic but sticks mostly to the realm of the representational; my favorite set was Aunt Josephine’s house, perched high on the bluff overlooking Lake Lachrymose. There is a recurring silhouette image of the three kids cocooned in a tent playing patty-cake—it feels like a concession to the Have-a-Heart police, but the film keeps it brief and never bogs down in syrup. Lemony Snicket’s movie narration tends to linger more heavy-handedly than the books do on the themes of savoring small victories and perseverance rewarded, but Jude Law issues all of Lemony’s commentary in a wonderfully wry, jaundiced style that is an important link to the original story.

If this Lemony Snicket movie is to be the first of several, they’re off to a fine start. Bring Law and all the kids back. They are impeccable. And Carrey has placed a legitimate stamp on the role of Olaf that he should continue to explore and refine; even the drawbacks of his performance have a silver lining. Yes, I had a few quibbles about fidelity to the material. Others will, too. But the bottom line is that the Lemony Snicket books tell kids not to expect any handouts from the Fates, and that comes through loudly here, both because of the film’s own considerable merits and because the other best-known movie kids of late have magic wands or super powers to give them a leg up in the world.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11348&reviewer=395
originally posted: 12/22/04 07:42:09
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User Comments

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
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  17-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 26-Apr-2005



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