Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events (2004) – movie review

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Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep, Jude Law, Emily Browning, Liam Aiken, Kara Hoffman
Director: Brad Silberling

“Hello, Hello, Hello!”, to many a child these are the words first uttered by the evil Count Olaf as portrayed by Jim Carrey to his newly adopted children the Baudelaires and indeed just like the book, the movie captures this moment perfectly. You see the Baudelaires are heirs to a massive fortune left to them by their recently deceased parents and Count Olaf desperately wants to get his hands on this very fortune. After one failed attempt on their lives via a train track Count Olaf loses custody of the kids for carelessness and so their trusty family lawyer Mr Poe (Timothy Spall) takes them to live with their Uncle Monty played by a jolly Billy Connolly but soon enough their uncle’s new attendant turns up and he turns out to be none other than Count Olaf in disguise. Soon enough a tragedy befalls their uncle and he too passes on. So the children Violet the eldest and also a very talented inventor, Klaus the second born and also a very well read young man and the last born girl Sunny a very enthusiastic biter are packed off to live with their Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep). Just as they seem to be settling in they find themselves yet again in the company of Count Olaf ridiculously disguised as a seafaring one-legged captain. Yet again the Baudelaires find themselves battling for their lives from tornados, nasty leeches and Count Olaf who proves to have a truly slippery trick up this sleeve to get their inheritance.

Director Brad Silberling has taken the first three books from the ‘Lemony Snicket’ series that’s sold over 27 million books worldwide and crafted a movie. In parts he keeps the film true to the bleak, dark content of the books from the opening scene at the grey Briny Beach to the grotesque interiors and exteriors of the residence of Count Olaf. This is all expertly captured by most of the same crew behind the set designs for Tim Burton’s SLEEPY HOLLOW so it has got the same gloomy, gothic feel. The end result proves to be above average but still feels as though it is lacking something. It looks good, sounds good, has a solid cast who all perform well but still seems to be missing a certain sense of wonder that could have tipped it over the edge to make it a classic.

The true draw to this film and easily the best thing in it is Jim Carrey who excels at playing the vain, nasty and constantly scheming Count Olaf. In some ways the fact that he only appears about 6 to 9 times throughout the film leaves it to be enjoyed more by kids than adults, whereas had he been given free rein and a few more scenes one can only anticipate that there would have been much more fun for everybody.

There is a host of top notch supporting acts form Meryl Streep, Timothy Spall, Billy Connolly, Catherine O’Hara, Cedric The Entertainer and a cameo from Dustin Hoffman. This film has got all the right people but again particularly in the case of Cedric The Entertainer his comic skills are hardly used at all.

Jude Law pops up again but this time only as the voice of Lemony Snicket and even then he is seen only in the dark typing away as he narrates the sad tale of the Baudelaire Children. Emily Browning, Liam Aiken, Kara and Shelby Hoffman who respectively portray Violet, Klaus and Sunny are all perfectly cast as they give very understated performances that suit their grief stricken characters.

This film should do very well at the box office as it does work as a family film and for fans of the books it captures the feel very well and I for one was very happy with the make up used on Jim Carrey to transform him into Count Olaf – they got it spot on right down to the big hooked nose.

All in all it is not as spellbinding as it should be but it is great fun nonetheless.

4 out of 6 stars