Upon hearing that a movie adaptation of Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events starring Jim Carrey was in the works, I was excited to say the least.
In case you don't already know: A Series Of Unfortunate Events is awesome.
The books, I mean.
The film... slightly less.
Which is not to say that it's bad in any way or that I don't like it, quite the opposite. It's just that the film's overall more lighthearted approach took a lot out of what claimed to be a dark, super-downbeat tale of how unfair, cruel and miserable the world can be to innocents who deserve better. The film's admittedly clever opening, which tricks us into watching a ridiculously cute, colourful and happy cartoon before slapping us in the face with a rather gloomy Jude Law voice over and warning us about the unpleasantness of the story about to follow, is perfect and captures the spirit of the books really well. While characters in the film refer to some horrible things that happened in the past or die off-screen, by the end you'll still feel slighted: this is still a rather tame kids' movie with the kind of happy ending a Lemony Snicket book would absolutely refuse to adopt. The iconic villain Count Olaf, who adopts the young Baudelaire orphans, is played by Jim Carrey and, while this is essentially good casting, Carrey is sadly completely misdirected throughout. Olaf, a genuinely terrifying presence in the books, is reduced to a goofy, over-the-top, ridiculous wannabe actor who feels like less of a threat even than The Incredibly Deadly Viper.
The Incredibly Deadly Viper being, of course, one of the friendliest and most harmless snakes out there.
The Baudelaires are portrayed relatively well with Emily Browning doing a particularly good job as inventor gal Violet while Sunny's unintelligible words are amusingly subtitled, if too often played for big laughs which seldom materialise. Liam Aiken's Klaus seems like more of a dud, however, as he doesn't really look like the character and just seems to mostly walk around looking grumpy. The uneven tone and the rushed, hugely predictable conclusion really are the film's biggest shortcomings, otherwise it looks beautiful, Meryl Streep and Billy Connolly are perfect in their respective roles and Jim Carrey, though far too aloof, is always fun to watch. The darker moments in the film work really well so one wishes there had been more of those throughout as there was great potential here to make a kids' movie like no other. Like a meaner Tim Burton-esque effort. Still, this A Series Of Unfortunate Events remains atmospheric, entertaining and original enough to warrant a watch.
Though not nearly consistently sinister enough to truly be a worthy adaptation of Lemony Snicket's genius series of novels, this movie is a fun, occasionally gloomy and nutty piece of kid-(sort-of)-friendly entertainment. It may not always work but it remains likeable.
A fair attempt.