Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Year: 2004
Running time: 108 minutes
Certificate: PG
Language: English
Screenplay: Robert Gordon
Director: Brad Silberling
Starring: Jim Carrey, Emily Browning, Liam Aiken, Kara Hoffman, Shelby Hoffman, Billy Connolly, Meryl Streep, Jude Law, Timothy Spall, Catherine O'Hara, Luis Guzman, Jennifer Coolidge, Jamie Harris, Jane Adams, Craig Ferguson, Cedric the Entertainer

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events was another book adaptation of a hugely popular series that was released in the wake of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. Like The Golden Compass, Lemony Snicket failed to trigger a franchise (corporate shake-ups at Paramount didn't stop years of talk of a sequel that never materialised), but unlike that absolute stinker, it does a fine job of nailing the quirky tone suggested by what I've read of the books. It skews perhaps a little younger than Rings and the later instalments of Potter (although not by much), but is still full of great invention and storytelling smarts.

The ever-resourceful Baudelaire children.
The film covers the events in the first 3 of 13 books, and although it did reasonably well, it didn't do enough to secure any sequels. Although Netflix have produced a new series which is due to launch in January 2017, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and starring Neil Patrick Harris, giving the property a well-deserved new lease of life.

The film has an impressive style all its own, with the muted colours still allowing for striking visuals and the well-suited soundtrack creating an overall effect of dreary negativity which still manages to be funny and emotionally engaging. It’s an odd contradiction, and the makers have made it work well.

Centred around the three Baudelaire children Violet (inventor) (Emily Browning), Klaus (book lover) (Liam Aiken) and baby Sunny (biter) (Kara and Shelby Hoffman) who soon become the Baudelaire orphans after their parents are killed in a mysterious house fire, the film tells of their struggle against the sinister Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), who is trying to get his hands on their late parents' fortune. Shipped from guardian to guardian, it is up to the siblings to outwit the adults who, through sheer bloody-minded incompetence, always seem to place them in danger. I suspect bright children often feel something of the frustration the Baudelaire orphans do here, controlled and written off by useless adults who simply assume they know best when almost always, they are either well-meaning buffoons or malicious idiots.

There are occasional moments when the siblings are given brief moments to grieve the loss of their parents (and their safety), and the rarity of these moments make them all the more affecting - particularly at the end of the film when they visit the ruins of their home. The scene hit me hard enough to bring tears (that is, since having children of my own - this being another scene, like so many other moments in so many other films, that means so much more now than it ever did before).

Count Olaf: Most assuredly, up to no good.
The cast are fabulous; Liam Aiken does well as Klaus, but is upstaged in every scene by Emily Browning's Violet - she deserves much more than to be remembered for this and Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch. She was very brave to take on Sleeping Beauty, and was excellent in it, but the disturbing subject matter and large amounts of nudity means it will only ever be niche. The stellar adult cast including Timothy Spall, Billy Connelly and Meryl Streep all impress. It is, however, the casting of Jim Carrey in the role of the despicable Count Olaf that gives the film its standout performance. A master of disguise fooling all the adults but never managing to outwit the Baudelaire orphans, the role of the dastardly and slightly wired Olaf is perfectly suited to Carrey, and leaves Neil Patrick Harris a hell of a shadow to fill.

A special mention is necessary for the superb end credit sequence, which may just be the best I’ve ever seen, with the animation and music summing up the style of the film beautifully.

Better than I was expecting, I was happy to be taken by ‘supreeze’.

Score: 7/10

Reviews are certainly mixed out there - Scott at Cinemablend liked it a lot with the notable exception of Jim Carrey, while Peter at The Guardian was much less impressed. Interestingly, most of the reviews at the time presumed a franchise.