Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events Movie Review
Jim Carrey makes a four-course meal of the Tim-Burtonesque surreal scenery in "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," completely overshadowing the story that is supposed to be about three crafty young orphans stuck in a cycle of lethal luck with a string of eccentric guardians.
As the inheritance-coveting Count Olaf, who is first to mind them (and virtually enslave them) after their parents die in a mysterious mansion fire, Carrey camps and vamps, huffs and puffs, cackles and clowns, sucking up all the air in the room and doing everything short of screaming "look at me, look at me!" Made up as a storybook villain, with a ski-jump nose, a theatrically receding hairline and a wardrobe that seems to mix Edwardian-inspired hand-me-downs from Elton John and Lenny Kravitz, his plan is to get rich by having the children fall victim to some terrible "accident" -- as when he leaves them locked in a car parked on the tracks at a train crossing in the countryside.
The fact that these kids -- budding inventor Violet Beaudelaire (talented 15-year-old Emily Browning), her voracious-reader brother Klaus (sweet, sad-eyed Liam Aiken) and their toothing-on-anything baby sister Sunny -- continually outwit Olaf is the source of delight in the popular series of darkly humorous kids' books on which this movie is based. But the optimism and innovation the Beaudelaires use to keep Olaf at bay -- even as they're are handed off to subsequent guardians who keep meeting creatively calamitous ends -- are little more than an underdeveloped story conduit here. The ostensible central characters are underwritten and never given the chance to act, but only react -- and only when Carrey stops to take a breath.
The stage hog, who seems to ride roughshod over director Brad Silberling ("Moonlight Mile"), is probably in less than half the picture, but even though the scenes without him are resplendent with Gothic stylistic flourish (a fantastically rickety cliffside house propped up on precarious stilts) and sublime supporting performances (Meryl Streep is a momentary reprieve as the Beaudelaire children's irrationally but humorously phobic old-biddy third guardian), these brief episodes are merely an eye in the storm.
"It's not too late to see a film about a happy little elf," advises Lemony Snicket, the shadowy, doom-minded, mostly unseen narrator (with the voice of Jude Law), in the movie's opening scene. Not a bad idea.