Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, an 11-book series about the lives of the Beaudelaire children, is really more of a series of downright devastating events, a phrase which here means “their house is burned down, their parents presumed dead and they are sent to live with the evil Count Olaf.”
But it is the ability of the children—Violet, the big sister and ingenious inventor played by actress Emily Browning, 15; Klaus, the middle child and voracious reader with the photographic memory, played by Liam Aiken, 13, and Sunny, the baby sister who bites, played by twins Kara and Shelby Hoffman, 2—to outwit the adults that has made this dark series so popular with the over-8 set.
“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” the movie is the latest creation in the series and also the most hyped—a phrase which here means “you can’t turn on the television and not see a commercial for it.”
It opened Dec. 17 and combines three of the books into a whirlwind of events in which the homeless orphans are moved from one odd relative to another while trying to convince the guileless banker, Mr. Poe, that the evil Count Olaf is, well, evil.
As you possibly have heard by now, comedian Jim Carrey plays the evil Count Olaf, who disguises himself as two other bad guys, the shifty Italian scientist and the shiftier sea captain, each of whom, we are lead to believe, resorts to murder in pursuit of the children’s inheritance.
The truly unfortunate event is that Carrey takes over the movie. The best-selling books are all about the children doing what every child dreams of doing: Outsmarting the dumb adults. While the children in the movie do triumph in the end (I sincerely hope, dear readers, that my giving away the ending does not ruin the movie for you), it is Carrey who dominates the screen.
I am not a big Carrey fan, unlike my children, now 8 and 11, who loved him as Ace Ventura in the “Pet Detective” movies, as God’s stand-in in “Bruce Almighty” and as Stanley Ipkiss in “The Mask.” I thought his Count Olaf portrayal was Ace Ventura in a different costume. And his transformation into the other characters is a credit to the wonders of make-up and wardrobe rather than his acting abilities.
Most unfortunate of all, the movie foregoes the humor found in Daniel Handler’s books. The laughs come from only a few great lines by narrator Jude Law, who is heard but not seen as he offers the same asides Snicket offers in the books, as well as some subtitles translating Sunny’s baby talk.
The movie is dark and this PG film probably is not suitable for younger, more sensitive children.