Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Daniel Handler is the man behind Lemony Snicket, the author/chronicler of the woes of the Baudelaire children. Since 1999, Handler, under the guise of Snicket published eleven books (and counting) in his series. Children loved them because they were fun to read and showed kids triumphing over scheming adults. Moreover, Snicket warned them not to read it, which of course encouraged them all the more. Adults appreciated the novels for their sly references to literature. And of course, film studios, eager for the next Harry Potter appreciated the huge young fan base of the novels. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is an adaptation of Snicket's (Handler's) first three novels, The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window.

The parents of the Baudelaire children died in a fire, leaving Violet (Emily Browning, Ned Kelly, Darkness Falls), Klaus (Liam Aiken, Road to Perdition, Good Boy!), and Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman) orphans. In Snicket's world, the children are smarter than the adults. People like Mr. Poe (Timothy Spall, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Last Samurai) never listen, and others like the villainous Count Olaf (Jim Carrey, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Bruce Almighty) are after the Baudelaire fortune. Poe passes the children around to various weird relatives beginning with Olaf. The children quickly realize that Olaf is evil, and do the best they can to escape him. Violet is an inventor, Klaus likes to read, and Sunny bites. Other, kinder relatives include herpetologist Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly, The Last Samurai, Timeline) and the clean freak Aunt Josephine (a great Meryl Streep, The Manchurian Candidate, The Hours).

It's up to Violet, Klaus, and Sunny to think their way out of each of Olaf's diabolical schemes. The first thing one notices about Brad Silberling's (Moonlight Mile, City of Angels) film is how much it looks like a Tim Burton film. The colors are muted, the sky is dark, and everything looks forbidding and a little off-kilter. There's a big reason for this. Silberling uses Burton regulars like cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, production designer Rick Heinrichs, set decorator Cheryl Carasik, and costume designers Donna O'Neal and Colleen Atwood in Lemony Snicket. In effect, many of the elements that go into giving Burton's movie their distinctive look are now used to give Lemony Snicket a similar one.

Sadly, Silberling, and adapter Robert Gordon (Men in Black II, Galaxy Quest) are missing one important element - the heart. Despite the darkness of Burton's films, there is always an element 'magic.' Silberling, still a relatively new director, does not have enough of a voice to give the film that wondrous feeling in Burton's or the various Harry Potter films. Instead, it feels like a watered-down Jim Carrey film. Gordon's adaptation also lacks bite and feels bland. Lemony Snicket suffers because of the repetitive nature of the screenplay. There are three novel's worth of stories here, so there is a certain amount of repetition. And while 'unfortunate' events keep happening, they really don't seem all that bad. The arcs with Olaf, Monty, and Josephine feel worn by the time all three have run their course. The one good thing about doing this is that the screenplay is able to play up the subplot about the mysterious nature of the Baudelaire fire. Violet and Klaus suspect it was not accidental, and they believe there are larger forces at work. So what's going on? Well, read the novels or wait for the (inevitable) sequel.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 53 minutes, Rated PG for thematic elements, scary situations, and brief language.

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