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Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events (2004)
Director: Brad Siberling

review by Debbie Moon

Tragic author Lemony Snicket narrates the tale of the Baudelaire orphans, scholarly Klaus, inventor Violet, and infant Sunny, who just enjoys biting things. After their parents die in a mysterious fire, they are farmed out to a variety of hopeless or ill-fated guardians. The only person who seems to want them is the evil Count Olaf, the world's worst actor, who's after their fortune. But, as they start to unravel the evidence that their parents were involved in a secret society, and many of their guardians have lost loved ones in mysterious fires too, they realise they're in greater danger than they ever thought. So much danger, in fact, that Mr Snicket humbly suggests you go to see a more cheerful film instead...

Bringing Daniel Handler's wickedly funny children's novels to the screen was never going to be easy. The witty, erudite prose is a vital part of the story, and the monstrous characters and lavish settings present an intimidating design problem. However, Siberling's riotous rendition of the first three books is a masterpiece. Gothically beautiful and dryly amusing, the film captures the tone perfectly. Commendably, it makes no attempt to tone down the undercurrent of menace: the children are threatened with knives, struck, almost dropped out of windows, and most shockingly of all, repeatedly failed by the adults who should be caring for them � including the 'good' people.

A great part of its success is due to the terrific casting. Jim Carrey restrains himself admirably as Olaf, having fun with the character's theatricality while still being genuinely menacing. The children � Liam Aiken, Emily Browning, and toddler Kara Hoffman - are excellent, never even approaching cuteness, well aware that they're playing the most sensible and adult people in the whole story.

If you like the books, you'll love this: if you're new to the twisted world of Mr Snicket, this is a good place to whet your appetite. Highly recommended. If only they'd get on with filming the remaining volumes.
Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events

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