A dark, slightly sinister tale based on the first three children’s books of the Lemony Snicket series. It’s the gothic tale of the Baudelaire children, orphaned when a strange fire engulfs their home and kills their parents. Bookworm Klaus (Liam Aiken), inventor Violet (Emily Browning) and little Sunny (played by twins Kara and Shelby Hoffman) are sent to live with their sinister relative Count Olaf (Carrey), but it’s not long before they discover the eccentric actor is only interested in their inheritance and will do anything, no matter how dastardly or deadly, to relieve them of it.
So begins that series of unfortunate events as the children try to escape his clutches and his various disguises while meeting some oddball friends of their late parents along the way – kindly Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly) and nervous Aunt Josephine (Streep), both of whom have secrets that may explain some mysterious occurrences over the years. As narrated by ‘author’ Lemony Snicket (played by a shadowy Jude Law, Snicket is actually the creation of writer Daniel Handler), this is a very Tim Burton-esque tale that delivers plenty of laughs but has a rather satisfyingly creepy underbelly. A twisted parable, it benefits from terrific performances from the child actors, and – while Carrey is allowed to go a little over the top in places – a wicked turn from the comic actor, complete with bizarre facial hair and manic posturing.
While you’ll wish some of the other actors, like Connolly, Timothy Spall, Catherine O’Hara and Jennifer Coolidge, got more of a look in, the most delicious performance of all, especially for grown-ups, isn’t from Carrey but from Meryl Streep, who reveals a previously untapped comic talent as the children’s meek aunt.
Is Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This really isn’t for kids who get frightened easily, or upset by watching children in peril. Younger children will also be unsettled by the idea of the Baudelaire kids being orphaned, so this is really only suitable for kids over 8 (hence the ‘PG’ certificate).
Jim Carrey’s interpretation of Count Olaf is creepy thoughout, with perhaps the scariest bit being the scene when he traps the children in a car, then leaves it on a railroad track with a train approaching.