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Jim Carrey swears this will be the last time he
stars in a film, without reading the script first.
Lemony Snicket's A
Series of Unfortunate Events
Review written by: Alex Sandell
Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events continues 2004's Hollywood Series of Unfortunate Holiday Films (Surviving Christmas, Christmas with the Kranks, The Polar Express). By the film's close Series of Unfortunate Events is something like a Tim Burton movie without the style, a Jim Carrey comedy without the laughter, a family film without the wonder and a complete waste of the $8.75 you paid to see it.
The movie starts out promising, by messing with the audience, making them think they're in the wrong theater. A Claymation looking film called The Happy Little Elf appears on screen. My friend was convinced we were somehow watching the wrong movie and insisted on leaving. I told her to be patient, use the Force; whatever it took to prevent her from embarrassing herself. I figured it was one of those sort of raucous shorts they put before movies, to pad the running time. But I was wrong. It was a warning, issued by the film's narrator, Jude Law (who has seemingly been in every movie released in the last 3 months), that Lemony Snicket's isn't a happy story. If you want that, he says, a movie along those lines is still playing in theater 2. This was funny, being that we were sitting in theater 2. I laughed. It sounded something like, "aha, ahoo, ahee." Everyone giggled over the bizarre monkey noises that escaped my mouth, leaving me silent the rest of the film. I haven't felt this embarrassed at a theater, since loudly declaring "THAT'S THE EMBER'S I EAT AT A COUPLE OF TIMES A WEEK!" during a dramatic scene in Fargo.
Embarrassment aside, I was digging the film. It looked dark, different and drew many parallels to Time Bandits, which is a sort of good movie; especially if you have a thing for midgets. We're introduced to three intriguing siblings. The first is Violet Baudelaire (Emily Browning), a young teenager with the inventing smarts of MacGyver and full enough lips and a sweet enough smile to have pervs in movie forums already starting a countdown to her 18th birthday, making me fear for the moral IQ of my fellow filmgoers. The second is a boy named Klaus Baudelaire (Liam Aiken); Klaus is the middle-child and has the ability to remember everything he reads, and he reads a lot. He doesn't have any countdowns going on in his own movie forums, but he would have made a splendid Harry Potter, in my opinion. The third and youngest child is a toddler named Sunny Baudelaire, played by twins, ala Mary-Kate and Ashley. Sunny's power is to bite. She'll bite anything and everything. In a pretty funny scene toward the beginning, you see her biting the side of a table and realize her feet are about a foot off the ground. The strength of her choppers would put Jaws to shame.
Not long after their introduction, the three children find that most of their house was burned to the ground, with their parents still inside. That dude who played the rat guy in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban takes the kids off to live with their closest relative, Count Olaf (Jim Carrey). He's not their closest blood relative, but he's the closest in distance from where the kids previously lived. They're dropped off and Jim Carrey, basically playing a more sinister Ace Ventura with facial hair, welcomes them in. He says he'll treat the orphans as though they're not unwanted. Then, as soon as that Harry Potter rat-guy leaves, he puts the children to work on a million menial tasks. The children are warned never to go into the tower. They aren't given a reason why.
In this part of the story, you wonder if Count Olaf will end up being a redeemable character. Maybe he'll see the light and they'll become a happy family. Sure, Jude Law's narration tells us otherwise, but Olaf hasn't done much to make us believe that the evil and greed within him is irredeemable. He's more of a quirky, eccentric character in the beginning, than he is a black-hearted witch of a man, after the Baudelaire fortune. But any notion of a reformed Count Olaf goes out the window when he deliberately parks his car on a train track, locks the three children inside, and leaves them to suffer death by locomotive.
The Harry Potter rat-dude refuses to believe that Olaf deliberately meant to kill the kids, but he is convinced that Olaf let them drive the car, with no adult supervision. Because of this, he takes the children away from Olaf and brings them to their Uncle, Monty (Billy Connolly). Uncle Monty is an eccentric, but friendly, man. For a moment, things start looking okay for the children. They're about to go to Peru with Monty the next day and search for snakes (their uncle has quite the reptile fetish). The scenes with Uncle Monty are, hands down, the best in the movie. At this point, I started having hope in the film. So did Jude Law, obviously, because, as narrator, he reads, "and the children went to Peru with their Uncle and had many happy adventures. The end." Then he pauses and says, "That's how I wish this story would have ended." I could feel a group cringe in the theater because, like clockwork, in comes Jim Carrey, posing as Monty's new assistant.
Kerry gets rid of Monty, claiming he died at the fangs of the world's most dangerous snake (or something like that). It turns out the snake was only called that to get people off of Uncle Monty's back (which didn't make much sense to me) and is actually not at all dangerous. Just when the kids look like they'll be stuck with Olaf, once again, that rodent-dude from Harry Potter saves them and hands them over to Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep). Ever since her husband was devoured by leeches, she's turned into an extreme hypochondriac. She lives in a flimsy house on a cliff, which she'd like to move from, but she's scared of realtors (along with doorknobs, refrigerators, stoves, etc.). This Aunt Josephine stuff is where the film really takes a bad turn and it only gets worse, until the moment the credits roll.
The movie feels like a bunch of short-stories smashed into one. I think somebody somewhere thought kids were going to like this. They won't, they didn't and they don't. When kids enjoy a movie, they squeal, clap, laugh, repeat the lines, etc. They sat dead-silent in this film. It was like watching the movie with a bunch of jaded critics, only the critics were 5 - 10 years old. They were nearly as restless as the adults accompanying them. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events treads uneasy water, from being too dark for children and not dark enough for adults. Because of this, it's intriguing to almost no one and misses nearly all of its potential audience.
I mentioned earlier that the film starts off in similar fashion to Time Bandits (not one of my favorite movies, but it passed the time). Toward the beginning, it does. Sadly, by the end of the film, it feels more like The Cat in the Hat. Not the Dr. Seuss book, but the bloated, horrible movie starring Mike Myers. After being told by narrator Jude, that there are no happy endings here, the film tacks on the most out-of-place, sappy ending seen this side of the last few Steven Spielberg films. Is this movie supposed to be a fairy-tale? An adventure? A comedy? Is there even a point to this being released, outside of the mountains of cash it hopes to bring in (but won't, being that it abandons almost all of its potential audiences)?
What happened to the days when Hollywood brought us National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Miracle of 34th Street, Planes Trains and Automobiles? Even last year's holiday diversions, Elf and Bad Santa made the Christmas flicks this year look like classics.
Despite a promising 30 minutes, Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events ends up as one of the most poorly-conceived, abysmal flicks pushed on families in a long, long while. I'm not begging for a classic, come Christmas time. I'm not looking for a holiday miracle. But a film that could entertain for 90 minutes? Is that too much to ask for? Apparently, this holiday season, it is.
Agree? Disagree? Have questions? Comments? Email this critic at firstname.lastname@example.org
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