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A film review of "A Series of Unfortunate Events" (2004)

This is a review of the 2004 film Lemony Snickets "A Series of Unfortunate Events" It is a gothic comedy about three orphaned children who stand to inherit a large sum of money and their greedy uncle (Jim Carrey) attempts to steal the money for himself.

Based on the children's books

Based on the popular series of children’s book by Daniel Handler, “A series of Unfortunate Events” (to give its proper title) tells the story of three young and intelligent children who receive the devastating news that their parents have been killed in a house fire and they are set to inherit a small fortune from the parents' estate when they come of age. Until then, the children are sent to live with their distant uncle Count Olaf - a brilliantly manic Jim Carrey - and it soon becomes clear that he is intent on stealing the fortune for himself by any necessary means.

Dark themes

Like the books, this film has some very dark and unusual themes considering that it is aimed at children, but maybe it’s that combination of the gloomy macabre and the surreal comedy that has appealed both children and adults alike. Visually, the film is stunning, with its gothic scenery evoking the work of Tim Burton and there are some terrific set pieces, including a bizarre and brilliant opening sequence.

Impressive young cast

This could have easily become another Jim Carrey vehicle and it’s to the director Brad Silberling’s credit that he does not give Carrey free reign, allowing the impressive young cast (including Emily Browning) to take centre stage and carry the film. Although, it feels a little episodic at time, he keeps the action flowing quite nicely.

Underused supporting cast

If there is one complaint, it’s that the supporting cast, which include Billy Connolly, Timothy Spall and Jennifer Coolidge, mostly feel underused, but Meryl Streep is easily the stand-out performer as the neurotic Aunt Josephine and you only wish that she was given more screen time. This film is a rarity in that it will genuinely appeal to both children and adults. Despite some small criticisms, the film is a big success, balancing the dark tone of the film well with its more comedic elements.

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