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Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (PG)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

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 Olaf.

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 alike.

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!

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