PG for thematic elements, scary situations
and brief language
Dec. 17, 2004
Jim Carrey, Emily Browning, Liam Aiken,
Meryl Streep, Timothy Spall, Catherine O’Hara, and Billy
BASED ON THE BOOKS BY:
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Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate
By Dr. Ted Baehr
Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is a stylish,
funny movie aimed at pre-teens and young teenagers. It has a lot to recommend
it, including a moral coda at the end which says that children who work
together to overcome adversity and love each other are “very fortunate
The movie is very dark, however, much too scary for little children.
It also doesn’t have enough light humor to completely carry off
its sardonic tone.
The high concept of the books and the movie is that life is difficult
and children need to be prepared to deal with it. Therefore, in a way,
the movie resembles hazing, an intense confrontation with the unfortunate
aspects of life.
The story opens with the three Baudelaire children learning that their
parents have died in a massive fire destroying their home. Mr. Poe, the
executor of their estate, places them with their nearest relative, Count
Olaf. The Count is an outrageously bad actor who makes it clear that he
wants the Baudelaire fortune and is willing to kill to get it.
three children, 14-year-old Violet played by the beautiful Emily Browning,
her 12-year-old brother Klaus and their baby sister Sunny, played by the
best actresses in the movie, the Kara and Shelby Hoffman twins, quickly
perceive Olaf’s evil intentions and work together to thwart his
Violet is a brilliant inventor. Her inventiveness gets them out of many
tight spots. Klaus is an avid reader who remembers everything he reads
and often saves the day by remembering some piece of literary trivia,
such as how to switch a train from one track to another. Although Sonny
can only talk baby talk, she has a very quick, discerning grasp of character
and very sharp teeth, both of which she uses to save the day when appropriate.
When Mr. Poe finally realizes Count Olaf’s wicked ways, he places
the children with probably the most wonderful character in the movie,
Uncle Monty, a herpetologist played by Billy Connolly. He lives in a reptile
room with venomous cobras, vipers, rattlesnakes, pythons, scorpions, and
other unattractive reptiles. In disguise, Olaf gets into the reptile room,
and finishes off Monty.
Mr. Poe then places the children with their aunt, Josephine, played by
Meryl Streep. Josephine is afraid of everything – avocadoes
because the pit may get stuck in your throat, refrigerators because they
may fall on you, doorknobs because they may explode. Meryl Streep, who
is afraid of apples and got swept up in the alar scare, is perfect to
play this role. Aunt Josephine’s husband was eaten by vicious leaches
and her house is built precariously overlooking a cliff overlooking the
lake where the leeches live. Olaf gets rid of Josephine and harasses the
After these dire adventures, the question arises, Will Olaf get the fortune
and dispose of the Baudelaire children or will they use their natural
talents to thrive as a family and thwart the evil Count?
Although this is a dark movie, it does not rely on magic and does show
that children can overcome horrendous circumstances. Thus, it does make
a positive point. It also shows we live in a sinful, fallen world, although
that was not the intention of the writers or filmmakers, who strangely
put in the comment several times that there is more good in the world
than bad, even though the story suggests otherwise.
Some of the humor in the movie is very pointed and witty, but a few sections
of the movie are flat, with Mr. Carrey over-acting as he sometimes is
apt to do. These problems may have occurred because the filmmakers tried
to unite three short books into one movie, creating an episodic quality.
Also, it must be noted that there are some intense moments for children,
such as when Count Olaf slugs the 12-year-old boy. Some of the reporters
at the screening remarked about this physical violence. Some of the movie’s
other moments are truly hair-raising. This means that the movie is not
for children younger than 10 years old, although the filmmakers are suggesting
it’s okay for 8-year-olds. However, children in the imaginative
stage of cognitive development, ages 3-7, could be deeply troubled by
the movie, and may have trouble reading the very quick subtitles. Furthermore,
without the consistent intense humor of the books, the movie is very sad
at several points, almost depressing.
That said, like Polar Express, this is a beautifully filmed,
clever movie. The sets, staging, lighting, and costumes are superb. The
production quality is high, and everyone who loves eye candy will be dazzled.
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events probably is
a very good match for pre-adolescents. Whether it will pull in a large
number of adults or not will determine whether it’s a hit.
Please address your comments to:
Sherry Lansing, Chairman
Motion Picture Group
A Paramount Communications Company
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038-3197
Phone: (323) 956-5000
NOTE from Dr. Ted Baehr, publisher of Movieguide Magazine: For
more information from a Christian perspective, order the latest Movieguide
Magazine by calling 1-800-899-6684(MOVI) or visit our website at www.movieguide.org.
Movieguide is dedicated to redeeming the values of Hollywood by
informing parents about today's movies and entertainment and by showing
media executives and artists that family-friendly and even Christian-friendly
movies do best at the box office year in and year out. Movieguide
now offers an online subscription to its magazine version, at www.movieguide.org.
The magazine, which comes out 25 times a year, contains many informative
articles and reviews that help parents train their children to be media-wise
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