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Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Posted in Action/Adventure, Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film is narrated by Lemony Snicket (Jude Law), who occasionally appears in silhouette, writing the story on a typewriter in what appears to be the interior of a clock tower. Inventive Violet Baudelaire (Emily Browning), her intelligent younger brother Klaus (Liam Aiken), and their sharp-toothed, precocious baby sister Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman) are orphaned when a mysterious fire destroys their parents’ mansion. They are placed in the care of bank manager Mr. Poe (Timothy Spall), who entrusts them to their “closest relative” which is a fourth cousin three times removed or a third cousin four times removed. However, misinterpreting the phrase, Mr. Poe chooses the relative who lives the shortest distanceaway, the obnoxious Count Olaf (Jim Carrey). Olaf promises to take care of the orphans “as if they were actually wanted” but in fact is only interested in the huge fortune that Violet will inherit when she turns the age of 18. In the meantime, he treats them like slaves.

Eventually, after a failed attempt by Count Olaf to murder them by locking them in a car parked on railroad tracks, on which a train is traveling, Mr. Poe (who believes that Olaf’s mistake was in allowing Sunny to drive the car) sends the children to live with their uncle, Dr. Montgomery Montgomery (Billy Connolly), a cheerfully eccentric herpetologist having a well-stocked reptile room full of bizarre, imaginary reptiles, who is planning a trip to Peru. Their stay with “Monty” is cut short when Olaf turns up in disguise, pretending to be a sharply dressed man named Stephano, a replacement for Monty’s assistant Gustav. The Baudelaires see through the disguise instantly; they manage to convince Monty that Olaf is an impostor, but fail to impress the villain’s true intention on him — Monty being convinced that the supposed Stephano is a rival herpetologist come to plagiarize Monty’s recent scientific discoveries. Olaf later murders Monty and frames a tame viper for the killing. The children manage to convince a skeptical Mr. Poe and a Constable about Olaf’s guilt, though not of his identity; at this, the count discards his disguise and escapes.The Baudelaires are forced to move again, this time to the shores of Lake Lachrymose, where their Aunt, Josephine Anwhistle (Meryl Streep), resides. She seems to have an irrational fear of numerous unlikely events, and yet lives in a house precariously perched over the edge of a cliff. The house is held up by stilts and includes a wide window overlooking the lake. It appears to contain clues to the cause of the fire that killed their parents; Josephine, too, appears to know more than she is willing to reveal. Before the children can discover more, however, Olaf turns up again, disguised as a sailor, and courts Josephine.

The Orphans soon discover that Josephine has disappeared and the window has been smashed, leading the Baudelaires to believe that she has committed suicide. She leaves what looks like a suicide note, but which is actually a coded message telling them that she is hiding in Curdled Cave on the shore of the lake. Before they can follow, the house is torn apart by a hurricane, wherein three of Josephine’s phobia are realized. The Baudelaires escape, eventually find Josephine, and attempt to take her to safety. Count Olaf finds them first, taking the Baudelaires and leaving Josephine at the mercy of the water and of the deadly Lachrymose Leeches. Mr. Poe turns up and gives Olaf custody of the orphans, because he is led to believe that Olaf saved Klaus from the leeches.

At Olaf’s home, he concocts a scheme that involves staging a play starring himself and Violet. In the play, his character will marry Violet’s character, but in such a way that the marriage will actually be legal, giving him access to her money. This move is accomplished by the fact that Olaf has a local official, Justice Strauss (Catherine O’Hara), cast as a judge in the play; with her in this role, he could make the marriage legal. To ensure Violet’s co-operation, he holds Sunny hostage. While the play is being performed, Klaus attempts to rescue Sunny. In doing so, he discovers a gigantic, eye-shaped magnifying glass attached by six rods protruding from a round window. This looks similar to a drawing found in Aunt Josephine’s house and is suggested that Count Olaf caused the fire that orphaned Klaus and his sisters. After Violet signs the marriage certificate, she reveals the scheme to the audience. Olaf gloats to everyone, pointing out that every time the Baudelaires tried to tell the adults the truth, they were not believed. Olaf’s plan is thwarted at the last minute when Klaus uses the magnifying glass to burn the marriage certificate. Snicket jokingly tells us that Count Olaf is sentenced to suffer everything the Baudelaires experienced (the falling house, the leeches, the car on the train tracks) and then spend his life behind bars. However, Snicket immediately adds that Olaf and his cohorts (who are shown briefly in some scenes) escaped, then vanished mysteriously.

Later, Mr. Poe makes one last stop in the ruins of the Baudelaires’ home. There the orphans find the letter left to them by their parents, informing them of how much they were loved and that there is in fact, more good in the world than bad. The envelope also contains a spyglass; one of several that appear, throughout the film, to imply the presence of a secret society to which the protagonists’ parents belonged. The film ends with Snicket finishing the story by saying that “there are people in the world who know no misery and woe and they take comfort in cheerful films about twittering birds and giggling elves. There are people who know that there’s always a mystery to be solved and they take comfort in researching and writing down any important evidence” and then reminds the audience that “this story is not about such people, but about the Baudelaires, who are the sort of people who know that there’s always something to invent, read, bite, and something to do to make a sanctuary, no matter how small”. The last shot is of the Baudelaires en route to their new guardians (who are probably Sir and Charles of The Miserable Mill), and Snicket quoting the final line to The Wide Window, which states that the Baudelaires were “very fortunate, indeed”. The credits roll, against a backdrop resembling illustrations composed of cut-paper dolls and silhouettes. This scenery depicts the children running away from Count Olaf, only to have him catch up with them.

REVIEW:

This film seems to be the kind you would expect to come from Tim Burton, yet, he had nothing to do with it…as far as I know. I’ve never read the books, but if the film is any indication, then they can’t be too shabby.

Jim Carey shows off the acting prowess that made him famous in the first place, that is the insane, over the topness that he displayed weekly on In Living Color and in Ace Ventura films. From my understanding, Count Olaf is as over the top as his portrayal.

Meryl Streep’s role as Aunt Josephine is inspired casting. At first glance, I almost didn’t realize it was her, and really didn’t think she would do this type of film, but it appears she had fun doing it.

Jude Law’s narration is a surprise, as he doesn’t seem the narrator type, but it really works.

This film can be summed up best by saying its sheer dark fun. No, it won’t give you that happy feeling like you have after watching a Disney film, but it is still quite enjoyable, however, when Carey isn’t on screen, the film slows down. Streep and Bill Connelly do a fairly good job of keeping things going, but neither bring the film to life like Carey.

Is this film worth watching? Yes, indeed, but make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Otherwise, you’ll be throughly pleased.

4 out of 5 stars

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