First off, the story, despite the huge popularity in America of the children’s books on which it’s based, is really very strange – an orphaned teenage sister & brother and their toddler sister are delivered into the hands of three mentally "deranged" guardians, one of whom is intent on killing them, before they finally retrieve the situation at the point where the most seriously unhinged of the guardians is about to be allowed, by a large group of supposedly trustworthy adults, to marry the 14 year old girl. And, for anyone unfamiliar with the books, the implausibility of it all, coupled with its really quite disturbing undertones, is a major problem. Is this a seriously distorted adult’s view of children or an unnecessarily frightening child’s view of adults? And, on either level, what is going on here?
So that's the bad news... and the good news? Everything else about the film is stunningly brilliant. The cinema photography, set design and production are quite incredible, recreating a visually distorted world in such detail and scale that it's up there with Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" as one of the best examples of gothic cinema ever made. The acting is exceptional, with Jim Carrey delivering a series of wonderfully executed, superbly "evil", and extremely funny cameos, and with the two teenagers contributing quite outstanding performances.Read more ›
The script. Compared to the standards set by Lemony Snicket's books, I feel that this was indeed a fairly shoddy attempt at moving the story to the screen. Important plot points were moved around too much or entirely missed out (anyone that has read the saga will know the importance of every last detail, including whether or not Klaus wears glasses). I was not impressed at the quick pace that the film was moved along and am still not convinced that combining the first three books (The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room and The Wide Window) together really worked.
However, the cast cannot be faulted. Jim Carrey stole the show as the villainous Count Olaf, and Jude Law cast as Lemony Snicket was another fantastic idea. The casting director deserves a pat on the back for the casting of Violet, Klaus and Sunny, who did their best with the could-have-been-better script. Billy Connelly was marvellous as Professor Montgomery Montgomery (better known as Uncle Monty) and brought an element of magic to the story.
The costume design and CGI were beautiful. Violet's dresses were eye-catching and exactly how I imagined them to look, and the "Incredibly Deadly Viper" was a humorous twist.
All in all, true fans of the books may be disappointed in the adaptation, but as for money spent on making the film look spectacular, a job well done. Good value for money, as the one disc DVD comes with deleted scenes and documentaries on the making of the film, and makes perfect family viewing, especially for a gloomy day.