'Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events' Review
I am sorry to say this is not the movie I will be reviewing for you. The movie I am reviewing is extremely unpleasant. If you still wish to see a movie review about a happy little elf, I'm sure there are still plenty of articles on the site in the related and popular section. However, if you like a movie adaptation with dark and impressive visuals, mixed performances, a so-so understanding of the source material, rushed characters, and a crammed plot, then stay as I recount both the fortunate and unfortunate this movie has to offer. My name is Neal Sastry, and it is my sad duty to document this review.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
The story revolves around the three Baudelaire children: Inventor Violet (Emily Browning), bookworm Klaus (Liam Aiken), and biter Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman). They lose their parents and their home in a mysterious fire. The family's banker Mr. Poe (Timothy Spall) looks after their fortune and takes them to live with a series of guardians: The nefarious Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), a herpetologist named Dr. Montgomery Montgomery (Billy Connolly), and a paranoid and grammar-obsessed recluse named Josephine Anwhistle (Meryl Streep). Along the way the children attempt to uncover family secrets while Olaf tries to steal their fortune.
The movie's biggest flaw is that it crams the plots of the first, second, and third book into one movie when honestly just sticking to the plot of the first book would have been more than enough to both invest the audience and fill up the run time. As a result of this, it's not only difficult to fully invest ourselves in these characters, but it also results in the omission of several other prominent points in the books.
The theme the movie is trying to convey is that of the Baudelaire children trying to find a place to call home while they are with the various guardians. This works to the movie's advantage as it works into the devastating struggles the heroes go throughout the movie.
The movie doesn't really end as much as stop. Despite a well shot climax resulting in the children thwarting Olaf's schemes to get a hold of their fortune once again, just like before, he escapes. The children return to the charred remains of their home one last time and they find a letter and a spyglass from their late parents telling about their secret society. From there they just ride off in Mr. Poe's car and we don't know what happens to them onward.
The visuals in this movie are outstanding. The various backdrops and lighting throughout the movie help contribute to the dark and gothic atmosphere the movie is going for. Hurricane Herman devastating Aunt Josephine's house as the Baudelaires try to avoid all the dangers within it (the very ones she describes prior no less) is amazingly shot. Whenever Klaus has to apply the knowledge he's acquired through books such as when decoding Aunt Josephine's supposed suicide note you see shots of the various books he's read on decryption and the realization hits you that much more. When Violet has to think of something to prevent the three from getting hit by a train (despite the scene being a massive deviation from the books) the way her attempt to build a device to turn the switch and change the track is built towards and shown well. The climax as stated before is amazing. There's a great deal of tension and dramatic buildup, the expressions of the siblings, and all the way the shots are framed and edited keeps you invested at every turn.
In regards to Emily Browning as Violet and Liam Aiken as Klaus, their acting is somewhat mixed. During some scenes their reactions are shown expressionlessly whereas in others they have the perfect reactions. When the two have to apply their knowledge of inventing and books to various scenarios however their delivery really helps you believe in what they are talking about and it leads to some of the movie's greatest moments.
Billy Connolly as Dr. Montgomery Montgomery/Uncle Monty gives a good performance. You really feel for this guy as he genuinely cares for the children seeing them as the family he never had. However the movie's attempt to cram the first three books into one movie makes him feel rushed thus there isn't enough time for him to fully develop.
Meryl Streep as Aunt Josephine is brilliant. She both successfully conveys the many rational and irrational fears the character in addition to her obsession with grammar. The only real gripe I have with her character is without going into too much details what she does to the children regarding Olaf. It makes her character a tad less likable.
Jude Law as the narrator Lemony Snicket is also strongly portrayed. Throughout the movie you see him in the shadows behind a typewriter. This was a great choice as it makes it quite a mystery as to who this guy is in all this. Despite his narration being all over the movie there is never a moment where he feels intrusive. And his delivery of the narration gives a saddening but eerie vibe which helps contribute to the atmosphere the movie is going for.
Timothy Spall as Mr. Poe is a decent character. Although he is very absent-minded in the children's well-being at least you get an idea that he somewhat cares about them.
Jim Carrey as Count Olaf is the best part about this movie. His over-the-top performance, movements, delivery, and expressions contrast perfectly with the dark and murky atmosphere of the movie. At the same time, Carrey's performance doesn't shy away from some of the scary moments Olaf's character provides either. His performances while under the disguises (which are very convincing) of Stephano and Captain Sham are also well portrayed. The only real problem with them is that the disguises are too convincing in that it's hard to believe that despite the children being established as quite smarter than the adults it's hard to believe that they would recognize Count Olaf underneath it all.
This may not be the greatest adaptation of a book series but it certainly is far from the worst. Aside from the attempt to cram the first three books nothing about this movie is outright horrible. Whether you are a fan of the books or not there is still plenty to appreciate in this movie. And for this reason, I am happy to say that this movie is very fortunate indeed.