• Home  > 
  • Cinema & Film  > 
  • Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events Film Review

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (PG)

Film image

The ViewBirmingham Review

StarStarStarStarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner16/12/2004

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

Thoroughly enjoyable and darkly funny thoughout, this is a beautifully designed, impressively directed film with exciting action sequences and terrific comic performances from its cast.

After the success of the Harry Potter franchise, it was surely only a matter of time before someone adapted the Lemony Snicket books (Potter’s biggest-selling rival) for the big screen. Thankfully, the right choices have been made all around, with Brad Silberling proving the perfect director, although perhaps the more telling names are executive producers Scott Rudin and Barry Sonnenfeld, the producer and director of The Addams Family.

Adapted From The Books

The film is adapted from the first three books: The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room and The Wide Window. An unseen Jude Law plays narrator Lemony Snicket, who tells the story of the three Baudelaire orphans, 14 year old inventor Violet (Emily Browning), 12 year old avid reader Klaus (Liam Aiken) and 2 year old “biter” Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman), who communicates in a series of subtitled shrieks and gurgles that only her siblings can understand.

When their parents are killed in a mysterious fire, the Baudelaire orphans are sent to live with a series of relatives, including the sinister Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), snake-loving herpetologist Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly) and nervous widow (and grammar fanatic) Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep). However, although the children initially manage to outwit Count Olaf, he follows them to each of their new homes, intent on swindling them out of their inheritance, even if it means killing off their relatives…

As the title of the film suggests, the Lemony Snicket books are gleefully dark and the film takes great pleasure in its subversive humour, successfully stripping away the sugar-coated sentimentality usually associated with family films. In addition, the action sequences are both inventive and genuinely exciting, such as the kids’ thrilling escape from the path of an oncoming train, or a nail-biting sequence involving a disintegrating house.

Production And Design Astonishing

The production design of the film is astonishing, from Count Olaf’s mysterious mansion to the snake-themed Reptile Room to Aunt Josephine’s rickety cliff-side house – you’ll want to see the film again just to examine the backgrounds in more detail. There’s also a terrific score from American Beauty composer Thomas Newman, as well as a delightful animated final credits sequence from Jamie Caliri, Todd Hemker and Benjamin Goldman (who got in touch to tell us they were responsible after we erroneously gave credit to the people responsible for Catch Me If You Can).

The performances are wonderful. Browning and Aiken make extremely appealing leads and, on the strength of this, have promising careers ahead of them. As Count Olaf, Jim Carrey is both creepy and hilarious - he gets all the best lines, but his performance never threatens to overshadow the film. That said, all three leads are frequently upstaged by the Hoffman twins, who almost steal the film with their subtitled biting antics – it’s only a shame that they’ll be too old to reprise the role if they film the sequel.

To sum up, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is a thoroughly enjoyable film that both kids and adults will enjoy. It’s also a refreshing antidote to the usual sugary nonsense you associate with Christmas holiday films. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (PG)
Be the first to review Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events...
01 Focus (15)

Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro

02 Selma (12A)

David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth

03 Far from the Madding Crowd (tbc)

Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenaert...

04 Chappie (tbc)

Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley

05 A Most Violent Year (15)

Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo

Content updated: 20/09/2018 18:13

Latest Film Reviews

Film Blog

Urban Pundit

Keep up to date with everything in film and cinema at Urban Pundit, the exciting new blog.

Film of the Week

The Conjuring (15)

Hugely enjoyable, genuinely scary horror flick that provides a welcome throwback to classic 1970s chillers, thanks to impeccable production design, a superb script, powerfully atmospheric direction, intense set-pieces and terrific performances.

Latest Close Up

Noah Baumbach Interview

The Frances Ha director discusses co-writing the script with Greta Gerwig, shooting against the backdrop of New York and the real lives of the city’s people, Greta Gerwig’s performance, the music in the film and the picture's visual style.