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Overall Rating
4.06

Awesome41.25%
Worth A Look: 33.75%
Average: 17.5%
Pretty Bad: 4.38%
Total Crap: 3.13%

11 reviews, 94 user ratings


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Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
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by Jay Seaver

"Delightfully malevolent, just like the best fairy tales."
5 stars

Adapting Daniel Handler's "Unfortunate Events" books (written under the pen name "Lemony Snicket"), at least initially, presents rather the opposite problem that adapting the Harry Potter novels does - they are slim volumes with large text and page counts that are padded by illustration. The writing style is elliptical, filled with the types of digressions and exposition that fall away naturally when translated to a screenplay.

So rather than simply cutting the books down to fit in a movie, screenwriter Robert Gordon has combined the first three books - The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window - into one movie. The joins are obvious, as the Baudelaire orphans (Emily Browning, Liam Aiken, and Kara & Shelby Hoffman) are shuffled from one guardian to another, whose ghastly demises serve to speed them on to their next stop. If Paramount and DreamWorks eventually adapt the entire series, it will take at least three more movies to adapt all thirteen of these books (two being as-yet unpublished).

I'm hoping they do. Although this movie is not quite perfect, it is highly entertaining. Its biggest flaw is an overzealously gothic design sense, which director Brad Silberling's Casper suffered from as well; I shudder to think where original director Barry Sonnenfeld or Tim Burton would have gone with it. The production design is still a little strange, setting the movie in a vaguely twentieth-century world, but also one out of fairy tales. Lots of black and dark purples, with the only really colorful segment being the green, yellow and red snakes kept by "Uncle Monty".

Amid this gloom, though, is Jim Carrey playing his role with broad insincerity and undisguised menace. His Count Olaf is a more successful villain than is often found in kids' movies, actually managing to kill people (generally off-screen) even though his disguises seem to be transparent enough for the children to see through them. Those disguises are a great deal of fun; we see Olaf take on two other personae to get close enough to the orphans and their new guardians in order to do them harm. Jim Carrey is a high-energy performer, and doing one movie a year isn't efficient use of him, especially compared to his early-nineties output on In Living Color and when he first exploded onto the movie scene in 1994/1995. He's like Eddie Murphy in that regard, where one character isn't enough to contain what he brings.

Even more remarkably, he's a generous co-star, working well with Billy Connolly, Meryl Streep, Timothy Spall, and Catherine O'Hara. His zaniness contrasts well with young Miss Browning's deadpan reactions. The filmmakers also make a great decision to not have a conventional wisecracking kid, but by giving all those lines to the infant Sunny. "Somebody's been to crazy-town" wouldn't necessarily be funny spoken out loud, but as the subtitle for a single syllable of baby-talk, it's quite funny.

The comparisons to Harry Potter are obvious, and not just because of the star-powered casts adapting an extended series of children's books. That's in part because both series draw on fairly basic archetypes - the highly intelligent children who lose their loving parents and must contend with a malevolent guardian, and must face adventure and danger despite the fact that adults are very little help. Roald Dahl hit it, and it goes back at least to Cinderella. I like this movie better than the Harry Potter movies; it not only doesn't engage in the almost criminal waste of its talented cast, but it makes its children active heroes. The Baudelaire kids aren't chosen ones, and they don't get help from behind the scenes. Instead, Violet, Klaus and Sunny extricate themselves from their perils on their own, using their talents and brains.

Is A Series of Unfortunate Events macabre for a kids' movie? Yeah, a little. People die, kids are put in peril, and it is horribly dangerous to swim without waiting an hour after eating. But, really, kids who are eight years old or so can handle it. Fairy tales and folklore in their original forms are filled with grisly ends, and even if the smaller kids get scared, the movie shows that even the smallest of children can be strong and fearless.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11348&reviewer=371
originally posted: 01/04/05 03:06:13
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User Comments

5/20/08 PAUL SHORTT A SENSE OF FRESHNESS AND DISCOVERY PENETRATES THE GLOOM 3 stars
3/08/08 peter i think this movie was pretty shit i think the baudelaire children should have died 1 stars
2/09/08 Samantha P i really liked this movie, i hope they make more, Jim Carrey was great as Count Olaf! 4 stars
11/03/07 Tiffany Losco Wierd but good. Jim Carreys funny 5 stars
7/14/07 Vincent Ebriega Not just beyond expectations, but beyond a usual juvenille production. 3.5/5. 4 stars
7/11/07 Hello Stranger emily browning is a great actress. cheers to liam as well 5 stars
11/11/06 Bill Hi all 5 stars
10/12/06 Xier Hernandez wow..it was really great...cool !!!!!! 5 stars
8/13/06 Andy Liam Aiken is the best part of the film 5 stars
7/20/06 David Cohen Jim Carrey's haminess ruined what should have been a classic 3 stars
6/28/06 joe koski good movie but the books are better 3 stars
6/19/06 chienne I'd never heard of LS, never read a book, but loved the film and have bought the books 5 stars
6/03/06 Elizabeth Wiley great 5 stars
5/27/06 Sarah its great! 5 stars
5/22/06 Diane P a little boring for me but my daughter loved it 3 stars
5/16/06 ororo manro It is agreat film and i would definatly watch it again,because of the unique acting skills. 1 stars
5/12/06 mr.seraph the only parts i found interested where those which included Jim Carrey 2 stars
4/04/06 John Aster Habig big fan of the books and Carrey but it was a bad adaptation, the kids actually saved it 3 stars
4/04/06 JRE the books are a lot more interresting, however Carrey did an amazing job 3 stars
3/30/06 Monique it was kool 5 stars
3/29/06 Amy cunninghamsy An exellent movie to watch 5 stars
12/12/05 Bad Critic Jim Carrey and Billy Connolly gave good performances, but it only covered three books! 3 stars
10/25/05 Stephanie The Book Is Way Better Should Have Been One Book One Movie Not Three Books In One Movie 2 stars
10/23/05 Deaf. I loved this movie! Jim Carrey is just so good at being evil. 5 stars
8/30/05 ES Started great but fizzled, they should have done a H. potter & stayed closer to the books 3 stars
8/23/05 Quigley the movie ruled. carrey was perfect. liam aiken was horrible. not to mention good CG. 5 stars
8/15/05 John Aster Habig big fan of the books and Carrey but it was a bad adaptation, the kids actually saved it 3 stars
8/08/05 reggie splendid!!! 5 stars
8/06/05 Zack Okay, it was better than "The Grinch, I'll admit, but.... 2 stars
8/01/05 Annie the kids did incredible, carrey was just creepy though 3 stars
7/23/05 summer Liam aiken sucks 1 stars
7/20/05 Sir Dude Loved it. Some of the best parts were deleted scenes, though. 5 stars
7/17/05 Pardue, sara Great Movie, The theme, imagination, and the fun is a enjoyable. 4 stars
7/03/05 Vic bull shit one of carey lesser funny movie...very tedious it dragged on 1 stars
7/03/05 anonymous It is a wonderful movie and Carrey, Browning and Aiken did phenominal! 5 stars
6/21/05 Honestly Movie good. Hated Jim; no one else available? Not looking forward to another with Jim. 3 stars
6/20/05 darick See it (especially if you haven't read the books) 4 stars
6/07/05 Darcy my son loved it 4 stars
6/05/05 Ubu the Ripper A great flick. Carrey is best when he is doing dark humor. 5 stars
5/28/05 JFK great photography and a great jim carrey performance 4 stars
5/27/05 Quigley Jim Carrey shows off his pure film magic in this. a hilarious movie. meryl streep rocked! 5 stars
5/17/05 E-FUNK I hate child-actors, but not a single complaint in this. Carrey fucking owns this. 4 stars
5/11/05 suzie suezetta good movie but not at all like the books 4 stars
5/07/05 ken good movie , very inteeresting 4 stars
5/03/05 Gary Jim Carrey was extraordinary in this 5 stars
5/01/05 Steve Newman seen this film twice - it gets better every time 4 stars
4/27/05 louis ok, but i expect more from jim, so i is good, but can be better 4 stars
4/27/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble Beware of the spyglass. Its not in the books. It was added by the director. I smell sequal. 4 stars
4/19/05 Nicole Baugh I don't really care for Jim Carrey much but this movie was pretty good. 4 stars
4/18/05 Renita Long Fun! 4 stars
4/17/05 Lynnette Stevens We loved this movie! 5 stars
4/10/05 Jillyn It was funny and really cute, and suprisingly followed the books pretty well 5 stars
2/26/05 Mia Griggs Too gloomy - my 5 year old was scared and he likes Harry Potter 3 stars
2/25/05 Evangelica Schnapfenschalz Good, despite that Carrey (better as grinch) is monotonoutsly flat as unrelenting villain. 4 stars
2/16/05 Littlepurch Pleasing adaption of excelent bks.Glad they took enough poetic license to change some bits. 5 stars
2/06/05 Tom Benton Though fans of the books may be disappointed, the film will please the average moviegoer. 3 stars
2/05/05 Ann Klonicki This was a little over the top for young kids 3 stars
2/04/05 Mirella Rodriguez Great Movie, not for young kids 4 stars
2/04/05 craig varney great jim carrey can play anything 5 stars
2/04/05 Debbi Kalstein fun 4 stars
2/02/05 photocopy Buy posters from this movie at AllPosters.com 5 stars
1/30/05 Gretchen Lowe I was expecting something else, I don't like children's movies:) Sorry 4 stars
1/27/05 Angelique Gloster I loved the movie it was the funniest movie I've ever seen! 5 stars
1/27/05 JesseL Nice dark comedy. Carey's aping can get wearisome. Biting baby makes it. 4 stars
1/19/05 ELI Had some stupid parts, but overall it was good! :) Good visuals 4 stars
1/18/05 Paterfam001 Not funny, not scary. I can't see kids getting excited about this movie. 2 stars
1/18/05 Shaira Liam is hott! 5 stars
1/14/05 Andi it totally was not a movie worth seeing again 1 stars
1/13/05 Robby Boyajian Great Movie but, doesn't follow the book to well 4 stars
1/12/05 Seth S. Wow... It was mandititory (for school) but it was WAY better than the books! ***** 5 stars
1/07/05 Angel C. It gave a interesting twist and a new look at the book series. It is a good film, the next 4 stars
1/06/05 Chuck Craig Carry is a little over the top, but acceptable. 4 stars
1/06/05 Mrk If you are a slight bit creative, you will enjoy this film. Very well acted. 5 stars
1/03/05 Lil Poor adaptation 2 stars
1/02/05 NoRefill Pretty bored during movie. Almost fell asleep twice. Just couldn't get into it. 3 stars
1/02/05 Karel cool! 4 stars
1/02/05 Maalstrom Always entertained when Carrey's on scene 4 stars
12/31/04 Jennifer I love the books and the movie was a wonderful adaptation! It was better than awesome! 5 stars
12/30/04 Worthy Slacker WOW! What a surprise. Expected a "formula" kid movie and got a "Top 10 film of the year". 5 stars
12/29/04 Max Trying too hard to be a tim burton film! 2 stars
12/29/04 Tom Ciorciari Like Charles Addams on acid, if that's possible 4 stars
12/28/04 aubree supeer duper 5 stars
12/24/04 Titus A bit rushed, and perhaps a bit too goofy for the story, but still great 4 stars
12/22/04 John Aster Habig Love all 11 books! The kids were well cast, but adults were ok with mediocre adaptation 4 stars
12/22/04 bobbi Excellent movie, a little shallow at the end but probably because of possible sequel 5 stars
12/21/04 Devon Awesome movie, worth your money 5 stars
12/20/04 michaelb14 great story, and great telling 5 stars
12/20/04 Daveman Impressive sets, sometimes funny but pretty pedestrian all in all. 2 stars
12/19/04 Naka HAH! A pleasent surprise. 5 stars
12/19/04 KingNeutron Liam Aiken was the only weak link. Very dark and gripping story. 4 stars
12/18/04 Mahone Awesome sets, but that's about it 3 stars
12/18/04 Littlepurch Some fantastic, some dragged, but everyone should try it and will enjoy some. 4 stars
12/18/04 Cat Love the Books. Love the Film 5 stars
12/17/04 Joe Cool 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  17-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 26-Apr-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  16-Dec-2004




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