a critiQal film review A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

Plot: When a mysterious fire kills their parents, three children are sent to live with their uncle, Count Olaf (Carrey), whom they have never met. As it turns out, the Count is out for their inheritance - and doesn't care about the children at all. In fact, the sooner they die, the quicker he gets the money.

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  • ...Carrey's inability to play the bad guy coupled with a simple plot, drawn out scenes and cardboard characters will have you yawning before this one's even close to being done.

Jim Carrey seems to have gotten away from his comedic roots, with recent turns in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and The Majestic, both of which didn’t do as hot as his other recent film (a comedy), Bruce Almighty (2003). He really shines in the comedic roles he takes on, and only does so-so in more dramatic roles. The Truman Show (1998) was the last movie that gave him a chance to be both comedic and dramatic in the same film, and that seemed to work out pretty well for him. The previews for A Series of Unfortunate Events play up Jim Carrey’s comedic parts in the movie, so we went in to this expecting another comedic gem from Jim Carrey. What we got was something completely different.

Jim Carrey does a great job in the comedic parts of A Series of Unfortunate Events, but he also is quite sinister, and that doesn’t work as well for him. He usually plays the good guy – and for good reason. Everybody likes him. Putting him as an unloved bad guy is a first for this film (yes, he starred in Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), but everybody secretly loves The Grinch, don’t they?) – and it probably shouldn’t be repeated. Trying to turn a lovable guy like Carrey into a villain the viewer is supposed to hate is extremely hard to do, and this film doesn’t do it.

Carrey does do his best to try to make the audience hate him (and it may work for kids), but it doesn’t work for anyone over the age of 12. No matter how much makeup you put on him, that goofy visage of his will always come through – and people will like him no matter what he does. Even in A Series of Unfortunate Events.

The rest of the characters in A Series of Unfortunate Events are basically cardboard cut-outs that can be summed up in a single word: uninteresting. They aren’t given any depth whatsoever, and contribute little, if at all, to the overall film. It’s not really the actor’s fault, though – this plot is aimed at the very young, who are distracted by too many rich characters. Give them simple and they love it (“Barney” (TV) is a prime example of this). The rest of us, on the other hand, need a little character development, which this movie doesn’t provide.

The plot is straightforward and simple. Three children are chased through a series of homes by an evil villain who is trying any way he can to get their inheritance – up to and including their deaths. It’s straightforward for the kids, with no twist that isn’t explained in great detail beforehand, making it rather dull for the average viewer over the age of 12. Each scene is drawn out and over-explained, whether it be through voice-over (an age-old device that has seen it’s glory days long past) or through the interaction of the characters. The movie also has a Tim Burton-esque type feel to it, but don’t be fooled – A Series of Unfortunate Events is just a cheap imitation. Burton would never have signed up for this drudgery.

A Series of Unfortunate Events has enough death and scary situations for kids to give the film a PG rating – thus taking it out of the normal young kids’ rating of G. At least it wasn’t PG-13 – that would have excluded their entire audience. If you’re over the age of 12, you most likely will not enjoy this film. It’s simple plot, drawn out scenes, and cardboard characters will have you yawning before the film is done. This film is aimed at the fans of the Lemony Snicket series of books, and they might be able to see past these flaws and enjoy the film. Will it be a big-seller on DVD? Probably not. If it is, it’s because parents see Jim Carrey and think funny.

Most theater viewers will skip the Unfortunate Events of this film, however, and buy their kids’ something they really want – something from Disney.

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