In light of its new Netflix show, I’ve decided to review the 2004 film Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I saw this film years ago, around the time when it was first released. I remember enjoying it quite a lot back then, so now I get to go back and see just how well it held up.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is based on the young adult novel series with the same name. The film centers on three young and wealthy orphans who are adopted by their distant relative Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), who tries to steal their family fortune. We see the orphans (known as the Baudelaire children) along their journey as a series of increasingly unfortunate events occur to them.
The dark tone and atmosphere of the film creates a visually interesting story. Every set has its own distinct look that adds to the gloomy feeling A Series of Unfortunate Events gives off. Many kids films can’t effectively pull off dark imagery like this, but A Series of Unfortunate Events manages to do so to great effect.
Unfortunately our main characters Violet and Klaus Baudelaire are pretty void of any emotion. I know that was kind of what the filmmakers were going with the direction given to the actors, but they just come off as boring. Their dialogue and expressions are just so mundane that it is hard to keep interest in them.
Now, I know many people find Jim Carrey’s overacting to be a tad on the annoying side, and I understand completely. However with A Series of Unfortunate Events I feel that his overacting is warranted and plays to the advantage of the film. The eccentric and hilariously bizarre persona that he embodies brings a little humor to a mostly dark and gloomy film.
We also get some surprise performances from Meryl Streep and John Cleese, both of whom were a surprise to see in this production. I think both their roles were quirky and overall enjoyable to watch. Unfortunately neither Streep or Cleese get a ton of screen time, but the little time they do get is entertaining.
Probably one of my biggest gripes about this movie is just how stupid everyone is in it. Count Olaf is obviously trying to kill these kids in any way he can, and yet none of the other adults can see this. It really becomes quite obnoxious how frequently the adults in A Series of Unfortunate Events act irrationally and stupidly.
I think the climax of A Series of Unfortunate Events was definitely a let down. Having been so long since I’ve seen this film, I remembered the ending being much better than this. It felt like everything was building up to the end of a big mystery story. I thought we’d get a backstory on who the Baudelaire’s parents were. Were they spies or part of a secret club? What did the spyglasses introduced in the film mean? Unfortunately, we get very few answers. The mystery that it felt they were developing is only partially concluded in a relatively anticlimatic manner. I’m sure the books go into much further detail (like who the Baudelaire’s parents were) than the film did, but as a stand alone film the ending of A Series of Unfortunate Events was nothing short of a bummer.
Even though A Series of Unfortunate Events doesn’t hold up as well as it did when I was a kid, I still enjoyed getting another chance to view it. While the main protagonists and the climax of the film were both disappointing, I find the performance of Jim Carrey as well as the dark tone it takes both worth the watch. So if you start watching the Netflix series and find yourself not really getting into it, perhaps the film would be a more suitable choice for you.
The Verdict: B-