Movie Review: Jim Carrey’s Unfortunate career choice

During the holiday season it’s always comforting to know the loveable chimps down in Hollywood are making children’s films. In an attempt to fill the void of the Harry Potter slot this season, Paramount and director Brad Siberling bring David Handler’s stories to life in Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events.

The story takes place in a pseudo-fifties British suburbia, following the lives of, the Beaudelaire children, three very gifted-and-recently-orphaned youngsters, who are put into the custody of the eccentric and evil Count Olaf (Carrey). He plans acting on behalf of his own personal gain, hoping to do away with the children and acquire their large inheritance. Living in a mansion as twisted and askew as Olaf’s persona, the children evade his plans to take what is rightfully theirs. Throughout the film the children befriend distant relatives, including Uncle Montgomery (Billy Connelly), and Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep) who are as bizarre as the Count, but far more caring. During their journey the children discover their parents may have been hiding secrets, and even living a double life which ultimately leads the children back into the waiting arms of Olaf.

Handler’s direction shows lots of promise as the film looks and feels authentically whimsical, in that Burton way. Everything from the locations to the costuming and special effects are done with close attention to detail, helping make Lemony Snicket a convincing affair. Unfortunately the film’s direction is usurped by poor writing and inconsistencies within the plot. For instance, very early on in the film Klaus discovers a spyglass in the ruins of their charred home. This spyglass becomes a significant plot point throughout the film leading the children into the mystery of Mr. and Mrs. Beaudelaire. The mystery is built up through the film until the climax, where it’s dealt with halfheartedly, leaving many questions unanswered.

Carrey’s Count Olaf is a good villain at times, but the sheer idiocy of people ignoring Olaf’s egregious abuse towards the Beaudelaire children is astoundingly frustrating and makes it hard to endure his antics. After being put back in his custody time after time the film leaves a rather unsettling feeling that nothing these children say or do really matters, and that Count Olaf will always win. Rather than delve deeper into the characters, this film is a series of cat and mouse chases, Count Olaf sets a trap and the children must use their wits to evade him. By the end of the film the character have really had no development, especially Olaf who is nothing more than a greedy drive with a goofy face.

The story is kept afloat and moving by the narration of Jude Law, who provides the voice of Lemony Snicket, the man behind the story. Billy Connelly’s Monty Montgomery is also a breath of fresh air as he’s much more compassionate to the children, easing the tension Count Olaf built up through the audience’s first encounter with him. Overall, Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events is just that– a series of very well shot, and produced scenes which hinge together, but lack entertainment value and are never truly engaging. The story arc doesn’t jive– as loose ends are left untied, and characters are left unexplained or misunderstood. While the film does have a lot of gloss it ends up feeling hollow. Unfortunate indeed.

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