"Visually spectacular and thoroughly entertaining"
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is a wonderfully dark children’s tale that is both visually spectacular and hilarious to boot. Based on the series of books by Daniel Handler, this movie combines the first three stories to create one of the most original and inventive children’s movies since Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas.Jude Law does a nice job narrating as Lemony Snicket and from the onset he warns that this is not your average warm and fuzzy children’s story. He introduces us to the Baudelaire children Violet (Emily Browning), Klaus (Liam Aiken) and baby Sunny (Kara & Shelby Hoffman) just as they are informed that their parents have perished in a mysterious fire at their mansion home. Before the kids are given a moment to comprehend their loss they are place in the guardianship of a distant relative Count Olaf who wants nothing more than the children’s vast inheritance which is held by the public trust. He lives in a grotty, run down house where he puts the kids to work cleaning vast piles of dishes, scrubbing floors and cooking dinner for his outcast amateur actor friends. Meanwhile, Olaf brushes up on inheritance law and thinks up dastardly ways to get his hands on the money. Each child has a special talent to help them outwit Olaf: Violet is an inventor and can build useful contraptions out of just about anything, Klaus is a vast source of knowledge due to his favourite pastime of reading and he absorbs contents of books like a sponge and baby Sunny is a very good biter.
During the film the children are in and out of the care of a couple oddball relatives including Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly) a charmingly eccentric man who collects snakes and also Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep) who was a daredevil in her younger days but now seems to fear everything from household appliances to real estate agents (but paradoxically lives in a house that perilously overhangs an enormous cliff). All the while, Count Olaf attempts to get the children back into his care and closer to the inheritance by paying visits to the new guardians in disguise.
The sets, costuming and cinematography all blend together to create a dreamlike world which is pure eye candy and impossible to turn away from. There is an obvious Tim Burton influence here which is hardly surprising when you learn that the production design and costuming was in the hands of two long time Burton collaborators Rick Heinrichs and Colleen Atwood (Sleepy Hollow, Edward Scissorhands). It seems as though Carrey was let off the leash in this film and he looks to be relishing in his role of Count Olaf. Billy Connolly is suitably charming and eccentric as Uncle Monty and Meryl Streep’s Aunt Jospehine would have to be one of the goofiest characters she has played to date but she fits into this fairytale world perfectly. The children are great as well with 15 year old Australian actress Emily Browning confidently taking on the much coveted role of Violet. Special mention should also go to the paper cut-out animated closing credits which are definitely worth sticking around for.
Lemony Snicket’s… does visit a fairly gloomy world but there is light to found within and many a laugh to be had with Carrey’s over the top portrayal of Count Olaf (and the impostors he also plays). Much has been made about how children may be scared of this film but there is nothing here that comes close to the Dementors in the third instalment of Harry Potter. There are some particularly nasty carnivorous leeches but the damage they cause is only implied and never shown.It may be a little too dark for the very young but nevertheless it is a great family movie for those looking for something with a little more edge than the sugar coated fluff that Disney usually churns out.