Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

by | Aug 29, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

Starring:  Jim Carrey, Jude Law, Liam Aiken, Emily Browning, Meryl Streep
Studio:  Paramount
Video:  1.85:1 Widescreen Enhanced
Audio:  DD 5.1, French, Spanish
Extras:  Previews (Madagascar, The Spongebob Squarepants Movie);
Audio Commentary Tracks (2); Deleted Scenes (11); Outtakes (5); Gallery
(3 sections); Sound (3 sections); Effects (4 sections); Making of (5
sections); Acting and Look (3 sections).
Length:  107 minutes
Rating:  ***

A Series of Unfortunate Events is based on a series of books (that now
contain 11) about a precocious pair of children.  When Violet, a
young inventor of 14, her brother Klaus of 13 who is an avid reader of
books, and their sister (18 months old) who has a propensity for
intense biting come back home from a day trip, they discover that their
entire house and parents have been incinerated.  The orphans are
sent to stay with their closest relative–an eccentric Count named
Olaf–who is only after stealing their fortune.  A dowdy sort of a
banker and the unwillingness of the children to submit are the only
thing keeping them alive.  When the banker/custodian discovers the
nefarious activities of the Count, he removes them and sends them off
to their next relative who helps to fill in more of the puzzle about
what has happened to their parents.  But the Count is not deterred
and revisits the children in disguise in an effort to eliminate the
relative in question and regain control of the children.  When the
Count murders the first, the kids move on to the next relative–another
disguise and another appearance by the Count.  The children seem
to be the only ones who recognize him, making it hard to convince the
adults of their impending danger.  One “unfortunate event” after
another follow, but the kids manage to stay alive and away from the
Count.  In a last ditch attempt to usurp the fortune, the Count
intends to marry Violet.  Luckily, Klaus discovers a way to stop
it and the adults finally see the Count for who he is.

The entire story is narrated by Lemony Snicket (Jude Law) who tells the
“unfortunate” tale of the Baudelaire children.  Brad Silberling
directed this film and serves as an excellent narrator (in the
commentary) to elaborate on many elements of the film.  The
beginning sequence of the film that warns the viewer that this will not
be a “happy” film mirrors a reversible cover that was offered on the
book to allow children to hide its contents from adults.  It was
so hard to find any real settings to use as a backdrop for the film, so
the entire project was done on constructed sets.  This allowed the
set designers, costumer, and all the crew to create a truly unique
environment.  The movie is a bit offbeat and not quite able to
find its audience despite the fact that it is in many ways an
impressive film.  Its dark nature does not make it an ideal story
for younger kids, but the focus on children and its fantastic style do
not make it perfect for adults either.  It will most likely be
enjoyed by teenagers although the fantasy it offers is more popular
today than ever with the introduction of the Harry Potter series. 
Jim Carrey and the other actors in the film do a wonderful job with
their characters, yet still the film seemed a bit flat—you may
disagree. For those interested in how far special effects have come in
films, Lemony Snicket should not be missed.

The costumes, sets, and special effects are as impressive as any film
I’ve ever seen and are elaborated on in the Special Features
section.  The features in the Special Collector’s Edition are so
extensive it would be almost impossible to explore them all in one
setting.  They cover virtually ever aspect of the film.  I’ve
set them out below and what they cover:

Volume. Frequency. Decibels.
Tree, Meet House (different microphone position options for sound recording)
The Terrible Train (layered sound effects for sequence)
The Unsound Sound Designer (details how the sound engineers took apart
a 1940s house and recorded the various sounds to incorporate into the
film.  Sequence also covers a preview held at Dreamworks.) 30 min

Gruesome Galleries
Shadowy Stills
A Woeful World
Costumes and Other Suspicious Disguises (3 galleries of pictures and designs)

Sinister Special Effects
An Alarming Conspiracy Involving Sunny (casting the child for doll construction and animatronics) 6 min
An Even More Alarming Conspiracy Involving Sunny (extended elaboration on digital baby) 20 min
The Terrible Fire (time lapse photography to showcase the scene with the disappearance of house to ruins) 6 min
Trains, Leeches, & Hurricanes (CGI crew showing off effects) 9 min

A Terrible Tragedy: Alarming Evidence From The Making of the Film
A  Woeful World (production design, set design, location scouting and construction) 54 min
Costumes and Other Suspicious Disguises (Victorian, WWI period styles
incorporating modern and other styles to create a timeless story look)
17 min
Violet’s Functional Designs (discussion of some of the machines and designs for Violet’s inventions) 10 min
Caution! Incredibly Deadly Vipers (snakes, lizards, tortoises oh, my!) 9 min
The Sad Score (Thomas Newman score and the pressures of working on big budgets) 13 min

Bad Beginnings
Building a Bad Actor (looks, hair, makeup, working up to the character in role for Olaf) 13 min
Making the Baudelaire Children Miserable (confirming that the
characters look well together and interesting trailer for film) 3 min
Interactive Olaf (4 panes of different looks of the Count including audio) 9 min

— Brian Bloom

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