Making the Grades
Playing multiple characters in a movie can be a hard feat to successfully pull off. But in the case of Jim Carrey, who stars as a narcissistic and despicable thespian in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, each of his reincarnations feed right into the storyline.
Carey appears to relish his role as Count Olaf, an actor who cavorts about with a motley band of grimy performers that play on second-rate stages. However, the Count's circumstances dramatically change when he is named guardian of three orphaned children, Violet (Emily Browning), Klaus (Liam Aiken) and their baby sister Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman).
The Baudelaires have just been left an enormous inheritance following their parents' death and Olaf is intent on getting the cash into his filthy fingers.
Unfortunately for the children, life with their new custodian makes Cinderella's circumstance look cushy. Forced to share a drafty attic bedroom and complete lengthy lists of daily chores, they fear for their lives as the Count's dastardly schemes to acquire their fortune unfold. As a result, they are initially only too happy to meet some of their other "relatives" including the snake loving herpetologist Uncle Monty (Bill Connolly) and the excessively apprehensive Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep).
But these children are not destined for successive sequences of superior good fortune---a grim fact that audiences are repeatedly warned about by narrator Jude Law. No, regrettably, (dare I say it again) life is a string of bad situations for the troubled siblings.
As is often the case with children's stories, these youngsters are forced to fend for themselves in a world where adults are portrayed as either demons or dolts. Yet unlike many other underage movie heroes, these three prove to be polite, imaginative and clever when it comes to solving their problems. They are also quick to realize their chances for survival are better if they combine their unique and individual talents of inventing, reading and biting.
The script is an unusual blend of dark comedy, fantastical sets of incredible design and outlandish characters best suited for older kids. While minimal profanities are included, some intense moments of peril as well as several off-screen murders, committed by an entirely unrepentant character, will make this film too frightening for many younger audience members.
Whether or not interest in this film (based on the first three books in the Lemony Snicket series) translates into more loans at libraries and sales at bookstores remains to be seen. But for readers already caught up in the intriguing misfortunes of this beleaguered brood, the oddly unsettling movie version of the Baudelaires' world is not the most adverse way to spend an afternoon.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Although the Baudelaire children do not have an ideal childhood, how do they make the best of their situation? What ability does each one of them contribute to improve their state of affairs?
How are adults portrayed in this movie? Who do the children rely on for help?
What part does reading and research play in both helping and hurting the circumstances of the Baudelaire children?