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</script></div>{/googleAds}Warning: do not read any further. If you do, please be informed that any dreadful consequences resulting from doing so will not be the responsibility of this author. Consider yourself warned.

From the wildly popular series of children's books written by Lemony Snicket (purportedly the pen name of Daniel Handler), comes the equally appealing screen adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Although young fans of the books are most certain to take issue with the artistic license expressed by the film's creators, the fact remains that Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is a deliciously quirky piece of filmmaking with a brooding little tale at its heart and a family of charmingly industrious children at its soul.

At the center of the foreboding story are the Baudelaire children 14 year-old Violet, 12 year-old Klaus, and terrible twos-ish Sunny (played by Emily Browning, Liam Aiken, and twins Kara and Shelby Hoffman respectively) who unexpectedly find themselves orphaned when their parents are killed by a mysterious fire that destroys the family mansion. As if that's not misery enough, the children are then passed on to their nearest relative, the villainous Count Olaf (Jim Carrey) who wants to kill them so he can get his scrawny little fingers on their generous inheritance. I warned you about the dread and misery.

As the children step into Olaf's mansion, we get our first sense of the film's relentlessly ominous mood created by designer Rick Heinrichs and set decorator Sheryl Carasik. The mansion is a mess. Literally falling apart at the seams, it is littered with broken knick-knacks, dusty bric-a-brac, and peeling plaster while giant holes in the roof go unrepaired. The children immediately realize Olaf's evil intentions but can't convince their lawyer, Mr. Poe (Timothy Spall), of the impending peril. Throughout the story, the trio is passed down to relative after relative as they try to escape Olaf's intervention.

A Series of Unfortunate Events is actually the title of the entire series of eleven books that deals with the continuing misfortunes of the Baudelaire children. But one of the film's main shortcomings is the fact that the filmmakers attempted to condense the stories of the first three books down into approximately100 minutes of screen time. Rather than explore many of its wonderful little mysteries and perilous side plots, it's as if director Brad Silberling and screenplay adapter Robert Gordon felt rushed to conclude their story. They advanced the story so quickly that many plot threads were neglectfully underdeveloped, leaving bits and pieces hanging around without a relevant context. Although I loved the antics of Jim Carrey's numerous characters, it might have made better sense to devote more attention to the children. After all, that's what we loved about the Harry Potter and Spy Kids series that grown-ups are ignorant and flawed, but children are smart and industrious.

In fact, one of my favorite aspects of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events was the craftiness of the kids. Each possessed a unique ability that, when combined with the skills of their siblings, could get them out of any jam. Their desire to persevere in the face of adversity was caringly depicted in one scene as Count Olaf locks the children in their bedroom. They construct a tent out of bed sheets and through the use of a flashlight and a photo of their Mom and Dad, they project the image of the entire family on the backlit sheet. It's this kind of human emotion that puts a film in a class above the typical kid movie. Kids love the depiction of child empowerment and adults like the sense of family. But where Lemony Snicket becomes something more is in how Silberling skillfully blends in the books' sinister qualities and sometimes tongue-in-cheek self-awareness. He realizes how adventurous and rebellious the books are and artfully carries that over into the film.


DVD

DVD Details:



Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; trailer. director's commentary.

* Commentaries:
o With director Brad Silberling
o With director Brad Silberling and director and, as they call him, â"the real Lemony Snicket".
* Featurettes:
o Alternate ending - "The Count Escapes"
o Original cast trailer
o Making Of featurettes
o Interactive screens
* Image Gallery

Number of discs: 2

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