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Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events /

Rated: PG

Starring: Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep, Emily Browning, Liam Aiken, Billy Connolly

Directed by: Brad Silberling

Produced by: Albie Hecht, Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes, Julia Pistor
Written by:
Robert Gordon
Distributor: Paramount Pictures




     I have read the first three books, which this film is based upon, in the Lemony Snicket series of eleven. They are undeniably fun to read, satirically capturing darkness with an unsettling, while still playful, tone. As far as modern children’s literature goes, they are rare finds. With that being said, they do have their flaws, even if most of which can be overseen, due to the honest intentions of the material. However, these exact same faults could’ve ruined the Series of Unfortunate Events film, for it functions as real art, rather than a simply an amusingly academic diversion for kids.

     Thankfully, Lemony Snicket’s The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window’s two biggest problems, have been fixed in director Brad Siberling’s adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events. For this, audiences can thank screenwriter Robert Gordon. With much sense, he decided to change the atrocious ending of The Bad Beginning, and then used his equally preposterous (but far more satisfying) version of it as a conclusion to the entire film. In addition to that, he decided to make the story a little lighter than it was in the books. As entertaining as their twisted senses of humor can be, they have certain moments that leave the reader questioning where they should be laughing at the misfortune of Baudelaire Children, the protagonists of the story, or sympathizing for them. This puzzlement, much to my delight, never arises in the movie. 

     The three Baudelaire children are Violet (Emily Browing), the eldest, who likes to invent, Klaus (Liam Aiken), the middle-child, who likes to read, and Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman), the baby, who likes to bite. Throughout Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, they are…well…victims of a series of unfortunate events, and must use their own passions to muscle their way out of misery. When their parents are killed by a huge fire which also destroys their mansion, they are adopted by their distant relative Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), an evil man who wants to steal their family’s fortune, which cannot be touched until Violet is of age. He executes one creatively awful scheme after another, in order to get his hands on the money, fooling everyone who has their not-so-watchful eye on him. Even when Olaf is proven a poor guardian and the Baudelaires are sent to live with their Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly), and, later, their Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep), he still tries to strip the children of their inheritance. In the Lemony Snicket books, the police are hot on his tale. They realize what Olaf is up to and that he is a threat to the Baudelaire children’s safety. In the film, however, his various disguises are more successful, and he is able to discreetly approach the Baudelaire fortune, coming closer to stealing it with each attempt he makes.

     Each of the first three books in the series could’ve made for its own full movie, as they are all extremely interesting and vividly detailed. Despite this, I like that screenwriter Gordon chose to use all of them, combined, to craft the storyline for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. The movie flies by with a runtime of just short of two hours. The plot is constantly moving and the characters, just as they would in reality, are always developing. If I hadn’t read the books beforehand, I would’ve assumed that the film was only half-over, when it was really about to end.

     There are times when Lemony Snicket’s A Serious of Unfortunate Events feels forced, but only the greatest of fantasy is free of these moments. During the movie, I was captivated, mystified by its very expensive visuals, and, most of all, brought back into the mindset of a little kid. A Series of Unfortunate Events tells a tragic story and Count Olaf is a terrible man, but you better just damn me to hell if I wasn’t supposed to enjoy it. The year 2004 has finally seen the light (or, in this case, darkness) of a family film that can be enjoyed by every member of the family.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (Posted in 12.28.2004-2.5.2005 Update)

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