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Overall Rating

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 Collin Souter

"Finally, an antidote to all those happy elf movies."
5 stars

I’ve read the first three books in Lemony Snicket’s “Unfortunate Events” series and found them to be highly entertaining, charmingly sadistic, dark, educational and fun. I read them in order a couple months ago knowing about the upcoming film version. As I read them, I wondered how on earth they would manage to not only maintain the distinct voice of its narrator which gives the stories an alternately somber and comic tone, but also how it would keep from being repetitive since the books seem to follow a certain formula one right after the other. Three books in a row, each with the same overall structure being made into one movie. It’s not exactly a formula for success, but I’m happy to report that this turned out to be one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen.

Director Brad Silberling and screenwriter Robert Gordon have achieved something quite miraculous with the film version of this eccentric series. They have not only maintained the tone of the books, but have also kept the story bleak and free of happy outcomes. The real author of the books, Dan Handler, has always shied away from sentimentality. The filmmakers do not, which makes this movie all the more astonishing. The last thing I expected when walking into the theater was to be moved. Most hardcore purists would criticize a movie for sentimentalizing their beloved series. I applaud it.

It works because the filmmakers know they have an obligation to be true to the source material, which, in essence is very sad, but also to deliver a real movie experience unlike anything anyone has ever seen. The Lemony Snicket books don’t have the commercial cache as the Harry Potter series. The filmmakers don’t seem as interested in starting a franchise and keeping it alive as they are in telling a whole story that has a wonderful emotional payoff. It captures the voice, the essence and the tone of the books while also maintaining an identity of its own. That’s what makes a great adaptation.

The story concerns four main characters, three of them kids. Fourteen year old Violet Baudelaire (Emily Browning), her twelve year old brother Klaus (Liam Aiken) and their baby sister Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman) have just lost their parents in a mysterious fire. The family lawyer, Mr. Poe (Timothy Spall), must find the nearest relative who can look after the children. Unfortunately, that happens to be a deranged stage actor named Count Olaf (Jim Carrey, in appropriately maniacal form).

Olaf has no interest in the children, just the money they have inherited. The children have never seen him before and have never heard of him. He lives in a creepy, run-down manor and soon puts the kids to work cleaning up his rat infested kitchen and mopping his smelly floor. The kids wonder how their parents could be so cruel as to send them here. Should they try and escape? What could possibly be up Olaf’s sleeve? Most importantly, how can they keep from being murdered by him?

It helps to know that each of these kids has a special trait: Violet loves to invent things. When she ties her hair back, it means her mind is at work on how to build a better mousetrap. Klaus loves to read and has absorbed an ungodly amount of knowledge in his short life. Sunny, who speaks in noises with the aid of subtitles, loves to bite. She has probably the strongest teeth this side of baby Jack Jack at the end of “The Incredibles.” The kids are quite resourceful and don’t intend to let Olaf win every round.

Eventually, it becomes known that Olaf has the worst intentions. It is up to Mr. Poe to find more suitable guardians for the Baudelaire orphans (which is where a new book would start). Unfortunately, every time they find someone less sadistic (but no less eccentric) than Olaf, a familiar face rears its ugly head and the kids find themselves in the clutches of His Greediness once again. These unfortunate events revolve around a speeding train, a house on stilts and lots and lots of leeches, not to mention a quivering, frightened wordsmith played by Meryl Streep.

Speaking of which, it’s important to note that a great adaptation depends not only on the writer/director’s approach, but also the cast. Carrey couldn’t be a better choice for Olaf. Some have criticized Carrey’s performance for being too rubberfaced and cartoonish, almost as though Ace Ventura invaded the set of a Tim Burton movie. Not true. He plays Olaf as he should be: A deranged over-actor and not quite a master of disguise. Carrey has played dark comedic roles before, such as in the underrated “The Cable Guy.” Here, he has just as much interest in creating a memorable villain as in creating some of his funniest characters yet. The two kids also do splendid work, especially Emily Browning, who effortlessly carries the final act.

Many would see the trailer for this movie and guess right off the bat that Tim Burton directed it. It certainly has the look of a Burton movie, but that doesn’t make it derivative. Silberling’s movie doesn’t depend on its visuals to grab us. They become secondary to the story and the thought put into its execution. This makes Silberling the perfect choice for this project, seeing as how his first three films—“Casper,” “City of Angels” and “Moonlight Mile”—all focus on the theme of death and what it does to those who have to walk the earth saddened, lost and afraid.

I have heard from many people who have seen this movie that they now want to rush out and get the books. I highly recommend it even after seeing the movie. The Lemony Snicket voice has plenty pf entertainment value in and of itself that it won’t matter if you’ve already seen the movie and know the characters. In fact, the first book especially has a few more surprises in store, which to me also makes for a great adaptation. Some people think that a movie must completely abide by the book in order to be great. I say an even better adaptation should make people want to read and know more. Not because the film was unsatisfying or frustrating, you understand, but because it was so great. How unfortunate that it doesn’t happen more often.

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originally posted: 12/20/04 07:28:49
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User Comments

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 was really !!!!!! 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 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
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  17-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 26-Apr-2005



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