Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (review)

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If Tim Burton made a Harry Potter movie, it might look something like this gothic wedding cake of a flick, all evil curlicues and black lace, gray skies and itchy taffeta, notorious villains and innocent orphans. Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is at his misanthropic peak as Count Olaf, the hilariously vain and wonderfully wicked guardian of the Baudelaire children, whose only concern regarding them is in getting his disgusting yellow-fingernailed hands on the fortune they inherited upon their parents’ deaths. The resourceful children — teenaged Violet (Emily Browning: Ned Kelly), who invents things; preadolescent Klaus (Liam Aiken: Road to Perdition), who knows things; and toddler Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman), who bites things — survive misadventure after misadventure at Olaf’s hands. It’s all a hoot and a half, but odd as this may sound, when uttered in reference to a movie that features actual murder attempts against beautiful big-eyed children, it’s just not dismal or misanthropic enough, not when compared to the source material. Director Brad Silberling (Moonlight Mile) and screenwriter Robert Gordon (Men in Black II) eloquently weave in the inimitable prose style Lemony Snicket, aka Daniel Handler (Rick), utilizes in his series of pocket-size fairy tales via a cheerfully Grimm narration by “Lemony Snicket” (Jude Law: Alfie), but they can’t resist pulling back, in the end, on Snicket’s refreshing cynicism. If they hadn’t undercut the primally dark fears that Snicket’s work is all about, this could have been a great film instead of merely a pretty good one.

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