Film: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

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Film:

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Director: Brad Silberling
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Distributor: Paramount

If you spliced Charles Addams, Dr. Seuss, Charles Dickens, Edward Gorey, and Roald Dahl into a Tim Burtonesque landscape, you’d surely come up with something like Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Many critics (in mostly mixed reviews) wondered why Burton didn’t direct this comically morbid adaptation of the first three books in the popular series by Daniel Handler (a.k.a. “Lemony Snicket,” played here by Jude Law and seen only in silhouette) instead of TV and Casper veteran Brad Silberling, but there’s still plenty to recommend the…

Reviews

Amazon.com

If you spliced Charles Addams, Dr. Seuss, Charles Dickens, Edward Gorey, and Roald Dahl into a Tim Burtonesque landscape, you’d surely come up with something like Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Many critics (in mostly mixed reviews) wondered why Burton didn’t direct this comically morbid adaptation of the first three books in the popular series by Daniel Handler (a.k.a. “Lemony Snicket,” played here by Jude Law and seen only in silhouette) instead of TV and Casper veteran Brad Silberling, but there’s still plenty to recommend the playfully bleak scenario, in which three resourceful orphans thwart their wicked, maliciously greedy relative Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), who subjects them to…well, a series of unfortunate events. Along the way they encounter a herpetologist uncle (Billy Connolly), an anxious aunt (Meryl Streep) who’s afraid of everything, and a variety of fantastical hazards and mysterious clues, some of which remain unresolved. Given endless wonders of art direction, costume design, and cinematography, Silberling’s direction is surprisingly uninspired (in other words, the books are better), but when you add a throwaway cameo by Dustin Hoffman, Law’s amusing narration, and Carrey’s over-the-top antics, the first Lemony movie suggests a promising franchise in the making. —Jeff Shannon

Barnes and Noble

It is Daniel Handler’s nom de plume, Lemony Snicket, above the title, but this mostly fortunate adaptation of three Snicket books (The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window) leans weightily on Jim Carrey’s cinematic shoulders. Carrey is perfect as the despicable actor Count Olaf, hamming it up in a series of guises that figure in his continuing schemes to deprive the Baudelaire orphans of their parents’ fortune. The film’s cautionary prologue ingeniously captures the subversive spirit of Snicket’s macabre misadventures; it’s a wonderful piece of stop-motion animation, right out of Rankin-Bass, in which “The Littlest Elf” prances about in celebration of springtime. Alas, narrator Snicket (Jude Law) informs us, this is not the cheerful film we are going to see. The Baudelaires’ story is much more alarming. Described as “clever and reasonably attractive,” Violet (Emily Browning), Klaus (Liam Aiken), and infant Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman) survive every deadly predicament Count Olaf can concoct. The cast also includes a boisterous Billy Connolly and a delightful Meryl Streep as ill-fated guardians who are not so lucky in their encounters with Olaf. Director Brad Silberling avoids the slavish-devotion-to-the-text formula that diminished the first two Harry Potter films, although the decision to subtitle Sunny’s gurgles and coos with contemporary slang (“Bite me”) smacks of pandering. Parents may appreciate that some of the more “extremely unpleasant” incidents in the books (notably a climactic marriage) have been toned down, but the PG-13 rating is accurate. The Academy Award winner for Carrey’s makeup, the film was also justly nominated for its dazzling production design, and the animated end credits are among the best in recent years, too. Donald Liebenson

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Album:Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Thomas Newman

The characters of Daniel Handler’s popular children’s book series spring to life in this playfully macabre screen adaptation from director Brad Silberling. Contemporary scoring master Thomas Newman may launch the musical proceedings with the brief, Disney-esque flourish of “The Bad Beginning,” but the sound of a needle being brusquely dragged across that record brings us to the composer’s true intent: a teasing romp through occasionally dark, rhythmically charged musical corners. Employing his patent take on post-modern impressionism to a greater degree than he…

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