The rules are set. The game is on.
Running Time: 98 minutes
US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: PG
Country: United States
There tend to be two types of people in this world: those who dont like Jim Carrey, and Jim Carrey. Sure, the guys proven himself to be a good, solid actor in films like The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, and the slightly-disappointing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but theres just something about the rubber-faced screen-hugging he adopts in practically every other flick hes appeared in that makes the man an instant turn-off.
The wonderfully-titled Lemony Snickets A Series of Unfortunate Events has achieved something, then, that up until now Id never thought possible. It takes Carreys irksome in-your-face shtick and, instead of having him clog up every single scene, it uses him with a modicum of restraint. You see, this isnt Carreys film – its a film where the three little blighters trying to escape his evil clutches are the stars of the show, and our Jim becomes all the more palatable for it. For that reason alone, Im tempted to put this one down right now as an out-and-out triumph.
Adapted from the first three books of the thirteen-strong Lemony Snicket series (the reclusive authors real name is Daniel Handler), the film wastes no time in bumping off the parents of sibling triumvirate Violet (Emily Browning), Klaus (Liam Aiken) and Sunny (played by twin babies Kara and Shelby Hoffman). The young uns are initially placed in the care of the creepy Count Olaf (Carrey), a tall, spindly, castle-dwelling baddie who fancies himself as an up-and-coming actor (bear that part in mind for later in the film). Olaf vows to care for these orphans as if they were actually wanted but, when it becomes obvious that hes Hell-bent on killing them to get his mitts on their inheritance money, the authorities end up taking them to stay with a string of weird and wonderful rellies (including a snake-obsessed Billy Connolly and phobia-driven Meryl Streep).
One of the films main strengths is that, despite being aimed largely at kiddy-winks, it doesnt talk down to its audience. It makes a self-conscious point of shunning the cutesy and the fluffy (prompting an unexpected, but definitely funny, opening sequence), and parents taking in its wondrously dark, gothic sets may well find themselves feeling like theyre watching the Tim Burton film Tim Burton never made. But theres nothing in here you could possibly deem unsuitable for the youngsters this is, without a shadow of a doubt, a family film. And, whats more, its one of the better family films of 2004.
It's Got: A cast so teeming with modern-day Hollywood talent that the likes of Jennifer Coolidge, Luis Guzman, Catherine OHara, Cedric the Entertainer and even Dustin Hoffman are barely more than extras.
It Needs: To have made Baby Sunnys lines funnier. Having her pre-speech grunts translated as subtitles on the bottom of the screen is a nice idea, but I couldnt help but feel that the so-so jokes used turned it into a bit of a missed opportunity.
Youll find nothing unfortunate about going to see this dark, fun, horror-for-kiddies.