In the wake of Harry Potter the popular Lemony Snicket books have been rushed into production and considering the less than promising prospect of Brad Silberling directing and Jim Carrey starring, I didn’t really hold out much hope. It turns out that the film is surprisingly good and apart from The Incredibles this was the only big budget Hollywood film I truly enjoyed this year.
Like Harry Potter, the Lemony Snicket books appeal to adults as well as to children but they are darker, funnier and more eccentric, making them more of a cult than the mainstream success of the Harry Potter series.
If you’ve read the books, you may miss the clever word play and you may feel that the two older children are miscast. Unlike in the books, the boy doesn’t come across as particularly brainy and the girl looks just a bit too sexy as Violet, reminiscent of a teenage Anjelina Jolie. Still they are better than some of the child actors in the Harry Potter series.
On a visual level the film is simply stunning. True, some of it is reminiscent of Tim Burton as both Burton and Daniel Handler are strongly influenced by the work of the writer and illustrator Edward Gor ey. The look of the film is a highly stylized mixture of Edwardian times and the 1950’s and convincingly brings to life the parallel universe of the books, where death is ever present and where the whole world has conspired to make the Baudelaire children’s life a misery.
Folding books two and three into the storyline of the first one, the plot feels episodic but it stays consistently entertaining. Not being a Jim Carrey fan I was worried about his involvement (I still think Richard E. Grant would have been the perfect choice) but he nails and certainly looks the part of evil, failed thespian Count Olaf and thankfully he doesn’t end up dominating the film, turning it into the Jim Carrey show.
The section involving Meryl Streep’s fearful Aunt Josephine is the best part of the film. Taking place against backdrops reminiscent of Masaki Kobayashi’s stylish horror classic Kwaidan, Lake Lachrymose is as beautiful as it is nightmarish.
Make sure to stay for the beautifully animated credit sequence.
Review by Boris_Day