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Carrey’s wacky antics drive ‘Unfortunate Events’

Ryan Rogers | Monday, January 31, 2005

There is something uniquely delightful about a dark children’s film, and the book-to-film adaptation of “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” delivers exactly that.The series of unfortunate events begins when the three wealthy Baudelaire children, Violet (Emily Browning), Klaus (Liam Aiken) and Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman), are orphaned after their parents die in a mysterious fire. In turn the children are forced to live with the villainous Count Olaf (Jim Carrey). The greedy count then attempts to kill the children in order to inherit their fortune, but the Baude-laires are a clever bunch. Violet is a brilliant inventor while Klaus, as an avid reader, knows just about everything. From here Olaf and the Baud-elaires match wits across fantastic settings alongside odd characters.Everything about this film is imaginative. The costumes, the sets and even the predicaments the Baudelaires find themselves in are truly innovative. In fact, the very method of story-telling is refreshing. The film is based on three books in the literary series, and the viewer gets a real sense of that as the film’s format is three familiar and linear yet distinct episodes. Meanwhile it is all presided over by Lemony Snicket (voiced by Jude Law) himself, although he is perpetually silhouetted. The big-budget actor of this film is obviously Carrey. His performance is strong as the very nature of “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” allows Carrey to show his ability and range. Count Olaf is an actor who takes on many different personas during the course of the film. The role is so diverse it leaves one wondering how much of a necessity it was to cast Carrey. While Carrey ultimately is very entertaining, there are occasions where Carrey goes a bit too far, and the viewers are left rolling their eyes. The style of “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” is wonderful. The film looks and feels dark in an original sort of way yet it is still family friendly. This is a very fine and difficult line to walk because it is a children’s film, but there is a lot of death and malevolence. This provides for a very interesting and endearing experience. However this darkness against family-friendly notion ends up causing a few problems for the film. The tone of the film is very difficult to place, and there are more than a few moments that seem tremendously out of place. For example Sunny, the youngest Baudelaire, speaks in a series of baby goo-goos and gaa-gaas which are subtitled into cringe-inducing one-liners. The subtitles are so out of place that you get the impression the filmmakers were a little scared to make the film totally dark. This is also evident with all of the implied violence in the film. No one dies onscreen yet the story requires a lot of dying. This is not necessarily a problem, but it leaves one wondering how committed to darkness this film really is. “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” suffers from a mild identity crisis.In a time when most believe you cannot tell an original story, “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” even with its flaws, feels original.