Film Reviews


By • Dec 17th, 2004 •

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Paramount and DreamWorks Pictures present a Parkes/MacDonald-Nickelodeon Movies production
MPAA rating PG / Running time — 107 minutes

QUOTE: Sublime. I loved it. And I’ll love it when I see it again.

I loved every moment of this gloriously dark children’s tale. In the same vein as the terrifying, classic fairy tales of The Brothers Grimm (Hansel and Gretel easily comes to mind) and Hans Christian Andersen, the Baudelaire children are in dire physical danger. There are no hip-hop rapping fish or square pants sponges here. The Lemony Snicket books are highly original and a delight to read. Thank goodness there can be many sequels.

We are cautiously warned by narrator Lemony Snicket (Jude Law, in shadows) what dangers await us if we stay seated in the theater. What a delicious way to begin the “dreadful” tale!

I have read only the first three books (“The Bad Beginning,” The Reptile Room,” and “The Wide Window” in the unfortunate “dreadful” series (there is currently a Book the Eleventh: “The Grim Grotto”), which are the basis for this movie. So I knew the story, and it is brilliantly conceived by director Brad Silberling, screenwriter Robert Gordon, and star Jim Carrey.

Fourteen year old Violet Baudelaire (Emily Browning), twelve year old Klaus Baudelaire (Liam Aiken) and infant Sunny Baudelaire (precious Kara Hoffman and Shelby Hoffman) have suddenly lost their wealthy parents in a horrific fire. Their palatial home, filled with books and pleasure, was burned to the ground. They are now homeless orphans. The Baudelaire estate is handled by bank manager Mr. Poe (Timothy Spall), who turns the children over to the villainous Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), their nearest living relative. Carrey is everything fans of Daniel Handler’s books want from the flamboyant Count Olaf. You see, Count Olaf is evil, theatrical, and narcissistic. In director Silberling’s firm grip, he is also extremely seductive.

Interpreted by Carrey, Count Olaf is dazzling.

Count Olaf cannot hide his delight over his scheme to eliminate the Baudelaire children and claim their fortune for himself. At his ramshackle mansion, the children meet Olaf’s acting troupe. When the children are nearly killed, Mr. Poe spirits them away to their Uncle Monty’s (Billy Connolly) snake-filled estate. Uncle Monty is a herpetologist who has hastily hired the services of an assistant, Stefano (Jim Carrey), when his former aid suddenly “goes missing.” Violet and Klaus quickly realize it is Count Olaf in disguise. Uncle Monty is soon disposed of and the children are sent to the perilous cliff-tipping home of their grammar-obsessed Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep). (I am grateful to hear from many liked-minded grammar-obsessed readers. They are always right and I make corrections. Nasty emails are answered, but only encourage, never restrict, me.) Aunt Josephine, a widow terrified of everything that might do harm, lives a cloistered life perched over a raging sea. Soon Aunt Josephine and the children meet a sea captain with a wooden leg, who enchants a love hungry Aunt Josephine. But the Baudelaire’s can tell it is Count Olaf, once again in disguise! And finally, bringing the Baudelaire’s unfortunate misadventures to an end, Count Olaf and his acting troupe stage a play starring Violet as a bride.

Jim, this is your Rocky, your Travis Buckle! And those Hoffman twins! How did Silberling get two-year-olds to do those things? Browning is a sensual delight. And Streep? What a wonderful, charming performance filled with nuance and cleverness! But it is Jim that uses his face and body to massage and stroke us with jaunty extravagance. Count Olaf belongs to him and is his triumph.

My Inner Child was scared.

LEMONY SNICKET accomplishes a difficult task in satisfying a fan as tough as I am. It is intelligently presented and every scene is beautifully realized. The entire production is rich is detail, sophistication, and the intended purpose to invoke an otherworldly, yet familiar, world. Production and costume designers Rick Heinrichs and Colleen Atwood, and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, imbue LEMONY with a highly provocative dark and menacing look. The Victorian-flavored costumes are seductively perfect. A sublime achievement.

With all due respect,

Director: Brad Silberling
Screenwriter: Robert Gordon
Based on the books by: Daniel Handler
Producer: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes
Executive producers: Scott Rudin, Julia Pistor, Barry Sonnenfeld, Jim Van Wyck
Director of photography: Emmanuel Lubezki
Production designer: Rick Heinrichs
Music: Thomas Newman
Costume designers: Colleen Atwood, Donna O’Neal
Editor: Dylan Tichenor

Count Olaf: Jim Carrey
Aunt Josephine: Meryl Streep
Voice of Lemony Snicket: Jude Law
Violet Baudelaire: Emily Browning
Klaus Baudelaire: Liam Aiken
Sunny: Kara Hoffman, Shelby Hoffman
Mr. Poe: Timothy Spall
Uncle Monty: Billy Connolly
Detective: Cedric the Entertainer
Bald Man: Luis Guzman
White Faced Woman: Jennifer Coolidge

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