Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
by James M. Gullard

Somewhere between Grimm's Fairy Tales and Mother Goose lies "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events." Adapted from the first three books of the popular series, this film straddles on the border of delightful family comedy and dark-humored gothic storytelling.
The movie opens with a teaser: a brief sequence featuring a happy little elf. But the scene is cut short by narrator Lemony Snicket (Jude Law), reminding the viewer that this is not that kind of movie.
The actual story begins with the three wealthy Baudelaire children receiving the rather unpleasant news that their house has burned down. Along with the house, they have also lost their parents. The family's banker, Mr. Poe (Timothy Spall), informs the newly orphaned children that they are to live with their closest relative ("closest" meaning 37 blocks away). This happens to be Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), an eccentric actor whose persona could scare the pants off of Nosferatu.
The children immediately know that something is amiss. Count Olaf forces Violet (Emily Browning) and Klaus (Liam Aiken) to fix dinner for his bizarre acting troupe, despite having no food in the house. He also takes a liking to locking the children, including baby Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman), in the attic.
To the children's dismay, Count Olaf is granted full custody of their well being. He is now able to carry out his vicious plan: destroy the children and inherit the fortune their parents left them. However, his attempts are no match for the clever Baudelaires. They manage to inform Mr. Poe of the Count's actions, and he promptly hands them over to a new guardian--their herpetologist Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly).
The children take a liking to their kind-hearted Uncle. However, as unfortunate as it may be, Count Olaf shows up, naturally ruining things for the children. They are then sent to live with their timid Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep), a woman who is afraid of everything, yet lives in a mansion that rests on the edge of a cliff. As soon as the children begin to adjust to their new life, Count Olaf once again emerges to make them miserable.
The production design of the film is enough to make this a worthwhile viewing. The sets are stunning, adding to the already creepy atmosphere. But this is without a doubt Jim Carrey's film. His over-the-top acting is hilarious and far more stylish than his "Ace Ventura" films. The children are also very impressive, especially Emily Browning (who somewhat resembles a younger Scarlett Johansson).
Although entertaining, "Lemony Snicket" may be tough for most people to fully appreciate. On one hand, it is a comedic tale of children outsmarting a sinister adult. Yet, it is also a beautifully filmed example of a style of storytelling that has all but faded away in recent years. In an era of light-hearted computer animated films, "Lemony Snicket" is a rare film that dares to be different, and succeeds.
"Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" is now available on DVD and video.