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January 2005

By Wilson Morales

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Director: Brad Silberling
Producers: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes and Jim van Wyck
Screenwriter: Robert Gordon, based on the books "The Bad Beginning", The Reptile Room", and "The Wide Window" by Lemony Snicket
Director of Photography: Michael Kahn
Composer: Thomas Newman
Cast: Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep, Liam Aiken, Emily Browning, Timothy Spall, Kara and Shelby Hoffman, and Billy Connolly
Screened at Loews Kips Bay, NYC




When Jim Carrey does a drama film where he plays a normal character, he's good as in the case of this year's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; and when he does a dramedy or just a comedy, he's great. He's just the person who can make you laugh and do all sorts of hilarious things with his wit and body movements. Based on the books written by Daniel Handler (Snicket), Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is good adaptation to the screen but at times lacks the darkness that the books presented. Carrey is having a wonderful time playing all sorts of characters, but his ubiquitous presence takes away from the heart of the story, which is about the kids and their adventures.

The film combines three of the eleven stories that were written. With Jude Law narrating the film and presented in a Tim Burtonesque look, with its Gothic setting, the three Baudelaire children, Klaus, Violet, and Sunny are given a grim look when their parents die a fire at home and they are told by the family lawyer, Mr. Poe (Spall) that their relative, Count Olaf (Carrey) will be their guardian. Olaf is very flaky as are his friends and he needs money, so he wants the kid's inheritance. Olaf's house is filthy, with the kitchen and bedroom filled with an unbearable look and smell. Treated like the hired help, the two older kids, Klaus and Violet, plot to leave Olaf and find another home but he makes it difficult for them. Each of the kids are gifted in that Violet can create anything like "MacGyver", Klaus remembers everything he's read from books, and little Sunny is gifted in her own way, she can chew like a pit bull. After escaping his clutches and living with Uncle Monty (Connolly), the kids feel at ease until a nasty turn to Monty puts Olaf back in play. Next, while living with the eccentric Aunt Josephine (Streep), the kids notice that she has a love for grammar but is afraid of household appliances. When Olaf gets to Aunt Josephine as well and does away with her, the kids have to come up with a ways to thwart Olaf from stealing their heritance and getting rid of them.

The visual effects in the film are fabulous, from the grim look of the film, the house at the edge of a cliff, and the snakes that Monty has in his house. As good as Carrey is playing these roles, he should have been a supporting actor, and not the lead. The story is about the kids and their adventures, but Carrey chews up every scene he's in and it takes the focus away from the story and the kids. At the same time, the books tell a dark story and the producers for the film watered it down so that Carrey's presence can manipulate audience into believing it's safe to bring kids of all ages when it's quite the contrary. As the kids, Aiken and Browning are appealing, but the little one Sunny, played by twins Kara and Shelby Hoffman steals the spotlight from them with her words. As a toddler, when she speaks, her words are displayed on screen, and for a time it's refreshing because for once you are not about Carrey. Streep is having a ball playing an eccentric and adds some fun to the film. The film is a fun film to watch because of the tone that Carrey sets, and if he's the attraction to a dark story, then so be it. Just keep it dark and scary.