I just love the holidays, don’t you? It’s the perfect opportunity to spend time with your family, curl up with a good book, get eaten by leeches, and sip on a cup of hot cocoa. It’s the time when all of the Oscar hopefuls are released, a joyous occasion for a movie fan. It’s also the part of the year when the Christmas movies come out. Usually, this is a good thing. Such classics as “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” come to mind. This year, however, we were treated to “Christmas with the Kranks” and “Surviving Christmas”. What do you mean these were bad movies?! Oh, yeah… They were. Well, don’t fret. After his touching 2002 drama, “Moonlight Mile”, Brad Siberling works his magic once again in “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”, based on the collection of children’s books by none other than Lemony Snicket.After their parents die in a fire, the wealthy Baudelaire children, Violet (Emily Browning), Klaus (Liam Aiken), and Sunny (Kara & Shelby Hoffman), are sent to live with their distant relative, Count Olaf (Jim Carrey). Olaf is a flamboyant stage actor, and heads a troupe of oddball performers (Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Adams, Luis Guzman, Craig Ferguson, and Jamie Harris). What the children don’t know is that their uncle Olaf is trying to off them, and steal the family fortune. What Olaf doesn’t know, though, is that the Baudelaire children are junior geniuses. If they are ever going to get out of this alive, the children have to work together… or else.
"A family film, with a dark side..."
When it comes down to it, whether or not you enjoy “Lemony Snicket” depends on your opinion of Jim Carrey (“The Truman Show”). In this film, he gives a comedic tour de force performance as the ‘beloved’ Count Olaf. Carrey surprised me, by proving that he can be quite scary. As the paranoid Aunt Josephine, Meryl Streep (“Adaptation”) adds another interesting character to her resume. She is funny without even trying to be, and bizarre beyond belief. With her performance in this film, Streep further proves my hunch that she can do anything. Billy Connolly (“Mrs. Brown”) is lovable as the herpetologist, Montgomery Montgomery. With very limited screen time, Connolly creates a character that the audience wants to see more of. Jude Law is amusing as the cautionary Lemony Snicket.
I’d like to give kudos to Siberling for assembling a trio (er… quartet) of impressive child actors. Emily Browning (“Ghost Ship”) is excellent as Violet, the inventor of the family. Browning carries the finale on her shoulders, and does it like a pro. Browning, an Australian, is a radiant beauty with a lot of talent. I have a feeling that she will be a star in the future. Don't forget, you heard it here first. Liam Aiken (“Stepmom”) is a bit weaker as Klaus, as he tries way too hard to convey his emotions. His earnest line deliveries are admirable, if not always successful. There is some potential here, though. I never would have guessed it from “Stepmom”, but he is growing up to be a very handsome young man. The Hoffman sisters are adorable, and make hilarious noises at the appropriate times.
If there is one fault in the film, it would be that there is a very minimal sense of danger. (Spoiler!) I knew that these kids would come out on top, and use their skills to defeat whatever problems got in their way. This left me at somewhat of a distance whenever they were in peril. When all was said and done, the film’s good heart won me over. The final scene should come off as cliché, but it was sincere enough to win me over. Nevertheless, the film is very enjoyable, fast-paced, and well worth the $10. Some sequences are also truly twisted, involving snakes, trains, and the aforementioned leeches, and may or may not be too scary for children. I doubt it, though.The film comes off as very Tim Burton-ish, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It simply means that Siberling is trying to helm different types of projects, which is okay by me. The score, Carrey’s kooky makeup design, and the art direction all combine to create an imaginative world that could have easily stepped out of a children’s book. With it's threatening atmosphere and off-beat sense of humor, I guess you can safely call “Lemony Snicket” an anti-holiday film.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11348&reviewer=394
originally posted: 01/01/05 09:45:48