After Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone proved that young adult literature could be adapted into successful films, and before Twilight forced every one of them to have a heroine with a complicated romantic b-plot, there was a little film based on a big series, called A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Putatively written by a shadowy figure named Lemony Snicket (though, really written by Daniel Handler), the series wound its way through thirteen books. The first three of which were adapted into the charming film I’m reviewing here. All of the marketing trumpeted Jim Carrey in the role of Count Olaf, the villain of the piece, a scheming distant relative of the Beaudelaire orphans who is desperate to capture their vast family fortune, up to and possibly including (though this is left unclear in the movie) their parents’ actual murder. But his is far from the only good performance. Also on display is a fluttery Meryl Streep, an awesome Billy Connolly, and even Cedric the Entertainer! Cedric’s inclusion in the cast is possibly more mysterious than Lemony Snicket’s identity, though the man narrating the dark tale sounds somewhat like Jude Law.
Shuttled from one poor foster parent to another, the three kids, Violet (Emily Browning), Klaus (Liam Aiken) and Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman) must use their particular skills to save themselves from Olaf’s escalatingly horrifying plans.
This turned out to be an adaptation that fulfills the dark yet playful tone of the books, but amps up the action and the drama with a few careful changes to the story. I won’t go into the details here. Suffice to say every change improves the already fun stories.
It’s a shame this wasn’t better received, because I imagine the following adventures (which I haven’t read) would make similar enjoyable cinema.
Also, I should point out how Emily Browning fits perfectly with my Theory of Casting: you should hire an actor whose face at rest approximates the emotion that will be most common in their performance. Emily Browning just looks sad, like she’s in perpetual mourning. And every film I’ve seen her in, she’s an orphan. I’m just saying.
Emily Browning was in A Series of Unfortunate Events with Billy Connolly. Billy Connolly was in…