Retro Review: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

The adventures of the Baudelaire children crafted by ghost-writer Lemony Snicket aka Daniel Handler have seen nearly a dozen novels and have entranced legions of die-hard fans. It is kind of like that other small literary phenomenon known as Harry Potter.

The comparison to Harry on paper and sales maybe relevant but the content is vastly different. There is no magic here instead you kind of have a cat-and-mouse duel between the heirs of an enormous fortune and there dastardly and greedy uncle.

The Baudelaire children, who are the stars of this story, consist of the oldest Violet (Emily Browning), who is an inventor. Next is Klaus (Liam Aiken), who loves to read and remembers everything. Finally there is youngest Sunny, a pint-sized preschooler whose main joy in life is biting things with her insanely strong grip.

Our story opens as the Baudelaire children have become orphans as their parents are killed in a mysterious giant house fire.

The children are given over to an appointed representative to the state, Mr. Poe (Timothy Spall), who must find the children’s closest relative to raise them.

Their closest relative, who happens to be quite distant in relation, is the mysterious and dastardly Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), who also happens to be a struggling and bad actor. Olaf lives in his own little world where he is supreme. Olaf’s evil plan is to knock-off the children and inherit their fortune. Will Olaf succeed? How will the children thwart his plans?

It isn’t called “A Series of Unfortunate Events” for nothing as the children have to take on Count Olaf on three separate adventures and meet other extremely quirky relatives like Uncle Monty (Billy Connelly) and Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep).

For the most part, this film is a series of Jim Carrey performances as he has to assume three different but unique personalities in hoping of fooling the children. Sure it’s fun to see Carrey prance around and be over-the-top much like he was in “The Grinch”. But sometimes it’s hard to remember that he is actually evil because his unique performances are so likeable, even when he is Count Olaf.

I loved the opening and closing credits for the film which set the mood and look of the film. The drab and dreary internal scenes of the film work really well and set the mood instantly. You do have to stay through the closing credits and marvel at the intricate work put into the credits.

I liked seeing Streep hamming it up once again in another over-the-top performance. I haven’t seen her take this much of a comedic turn since “Death Becomes Her” which is still such a vastly underrated dark comedy. I was also quite taken by the supporting performance of Billy Connelly as the snake specialist. I really wanted more of him.

My biggest problem with the film is that it only runs 98 minutes and we are sent on three separate adventures that are so very similar. I wanted to know more about Uncle Monty and Aunt Josephine. I wanted the mystery to the parent’s demise to be deeper and slowly come together instead of being rushed. I wanted more time with the children. I would have liked at least another 10-15 minutes but maybe that’s just me.

At a quick running time, these series of events seem quite repetitive and for that it’s a shame since the cinematography, set design and performances seem to expect more.

(4 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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