I am sorry to say that this is not the movie I will be reviewing for you. The movie review you are about to read is extremely unpleasant. If you wish to see a movie review about a happy little elf I am sure there are still plenty of articles in the related section. However, if you like movies with impressive visuals, decent performances, horrific pacing, a crammed plot, and a so-so understanding of its source material then stay, as I retrace every one of this movie’s woeful steps. My name is Neal Sastry and it is my sad duty to document this review.
The story involves the three Baudelaire children Violet (Emily Browning), Klaus (Liam Aiken), and Sunny(Kara and Shelby Hoffman) who lose their parents and their home in a mysterious fire. The family banker who looks after their fortune named Mr. Poe (TimothySpall) sends them to a series of guardians including Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), Dr. Montgomery Montgomery (Billy Connolly), and Josephine Anwhistle (Meryl Streep) as the children attempt to uncover the secrets their parents had all the while being pursued by Olaf who wants the fortune their parents left behind.
The movie’s biggest problem is its attempt to cram the plots of the first three books into one movie. Not only does this result in several plot threads of the books being dropped but also leaves very little room for development. Billy Connolly as Uncle Monty, for instance, gives a great performance nailing the part as the Baudelaire’s perfect guardian and eccentric but loving herpetologist seeing and treating them like his own. However, it completely deviates as unlike the book we find out Monty did once have his own family but lost them in a fire. This is something that is given little to no expansion.
With the movie involving the children going from guardian to guardian, foiling Olaf’s schemes, and finding out their family’s secrets there is given very little time for the Baudelaires to dwell on the events that have experienced and as a result we don’t know much about the heroes or feel much for them through their struggle.
Meryl Streep as Aunt Josephine is the exact opposite. Right from the get-go, she nails the role of an irrationally and overly frightened woman and there are many added quotes not taken from the book that in no way deviate from said personality. But again the movie’s pacing makes us in no way feel anything for her whether it be sympathy or lack thereof upon her demise
Jim Carrey as Count Olaf possesses both comedy and menace in his performance but at times there isn’t a clear direction in it. Sometimes there are moments that are supposed to be menacing but have the effects of it are lessened by the silliness of Carrey’s performance. Also, Olaf’s character is supposed to be established as a bad actor but his disguise at Uncle Monty’s house as Stefano is too convincing and the play he puts on to marry Violet in the climax is very elaborate. Yet as Captain Sham his disguise and mannerisms aren’t convincing at all.
Jude Law as the narrator Lemony Snicket gives a foreboding and cryptic atmosphere to the movie. Despite speaking all throughout it he never overstays its welcome and it always feels in place. The choice to stay hidden behind a typewriter was also very interesting. If the movies continued it would have worked in giving some sort of mystery in his role in all of this and have it unfold.
The movie’s visual style is impressive. When they have to show the Baudelaires’ brains at work the movies hows the books Klaus has read in order to do so and when Violet has to create an invention to get them out of a sticky situation. The train scene, despite being a complete slap in the face to the book, and is completely nonsensical even in context of the movie gives a great deal of intensity. The climax is well shot with the various angles and expressions between Klaus’ rescue, him figuring out of the cause of the fire, and the impending marriage. The destruction of Aunt Josephine’s house is particularly horrifying as we see all of Aunt Josephine’s fears coming to light.
Emily Browning and Liam Aiken’s performances are okay. There are times where their delivery and expressions do not fit the situation and there are times where they do. And while we do seem them work together to get out of the various situations outside of one scene we don’t really see much of a sibling bond between them.
The movie doesn’t really endas much as stop. Despite the well-shot climax resulting in Olaf being arrested he eventually disappears. The Baudelaires go back to the remains of their old home one last time and read a tearful letter confirming the existence of their parents’ society and they just ride off in Poe’s car with no indication of what happens from there.
Dear reader, there are people in the world who know no misery and woe and they take comfort in reading cheerful movie reviews about giggling elves. There are people who know that no movie is flawless and they take comfort in studying and jotting down the important points. But this movie review is not about such people. This review is about A Series of Unfortunate Events and it is the kind of movie that always has something. Something good, something bad, something in the middle of the road, and something undeterminable in being an adaptation. And for this reason, I am happy to say this movie is somewhat fortunate indeed.