Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD 2-DISC SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Commentary with
director Brad Silberling. Commentary with director Brad Silberling
and the Real Lemony Snicket. Building a Bad Actor. Interactive
Olaf. Making the Baudekaire Children Miserable. Orphaned Scenes.
Easter Egg - Count Olaf’s Ghost Story.
Disc Two: A Woeful World (production design). Costumes and Other
Suspicious Disguises. Violet’s Functional Designs. CAUTION!
Incredibly Deadly Vipers. Trains, Leeces and Hurricanes (CGI scenes).
The Sad Score. The Unsound Sound Designer. The Terrible Fire.
An Alarming Conspiracy Involving Sunny. An Even More Alarming
Conspiracy Involving Sunny. Gruesome Galleries. 3 Easter Eggs.
CHILDREN'S tales don't come much darker or mean-spirited than
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, but that's part
of the allure of this grim visual extravaganza.
Based on the first three installments of the popular Lemony Snicket
books, A Series of Unfortunate Events boasts an all-star cast,
some impressive Gothic sets (from regular Tim Burton collaborator,
Rick Heinrichs) and some blacker than black humour that help lend
it a distinctive and memorable style.
The film centres around the lives of three Baudelaire children
- Violet (Emily Browning), Klaus (Liam Aiken), and Sunny (Kara
and Shelby Hoffman) - who become orphaned after a mysterious fire
devastates their home.
Reluctantly, they are placed in the care of their uncle, Count
Olaf (Jim Carrey), an actor, evil genius and master of disguise,
who wants nothing more than to steal the orphans' vast fortune
even if it means getting rid of them in the process.
Yet as the Count's motives slowly
become revealed, the children are placed into the care of other
relatives - such as kindly Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly) or eccentric
Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep) - only to find themselves continually
forced to evade the evil endeavours of the constantly re-appearing
The ensuing adventure is narrated by Jude Law and directed by
Brad Siberling and unfolds in deliciously malevolent fashion.
Carrey is on blistering form as the deeply unpleasant Count,
assuming a variety of guises that are consistently funny and which
play to his comedic strengths.
Whether indulging in baby/monkey talk with Hoffman's young Sunny,
or attempting to ease his way back into the family fortunes, he
is a blast, injecting plenty of trademark manic energy into proceedings.
Wisely, however, Siberling never allows him to railroad the movie,
keeping him in the background for large periods of time, and allowing
the children to also take centre stage.
All three are an endearing bunch - particularly Sunny, who loves
to bite things - and avoid the Hollywood temptation to become
precocious, sharing some genuinely touching scenes together at
more than a couple of points.
And the support cast is clearly having fun too, with Connelly
and Streep on fine form, together with the ever-reliable Timothy
Spall, as the bumbling executor of the Baudelaire estate.
One word of warning, however - the film could well terrify any
child of a nervous disposition or over-active imagination, given
the film's dark tone and occasionally scary imagery.
And anyone with a dislike for snakes is also advised to cover
their eyes for the middle section, based on The Reptile Room installment
of the book series, while those who find Carrey's histrionics
even mildly irritating might find themselves running out of patience
in a hurry.
Minor niggles aside, however, this is a hugely enjoyable movie;
one which is as clever as it is devious, and with a nice line
in crossover humour, which caters for both children and adults
For fans of darker children's tales such as Harry
Potter, the Brothers Grimm, Victorian-era moralistic fables
or Roald Dahl, this offers the perfect contrast to sweeter Christmas
fare, such as The Polar Express,
meaning that it would be extremely unfortunate to miss it!