Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
dir. Silberling
Opens Fri Dec 17
Various Theaters

Perhaps more than in other cinematic adaptations, nailing down the proper tone of a popular children's book is the key to success. And the tone of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events seems especially treacherous--all 11 volumes are dry, witty, and exceedingly dark. Therefore, if you were running the studio, wouldn't you choose a director who is capable of handling such a difficult feat? Or would you go with a director most famous for helming episodes of Felicity and Judging Amy? It's a no-brainer, right? Well, apparently not--but that's why you are you, and the studios are stupid.

In the film's favor, Lemony Snicket tries to stay faithful to the books' basic plotline. Three children are orphaned when their rich parents are killed in a fire, and are left in the highly incapable hands of their "uncle," Count Olaf (Jim Carrey). Believing their deaths will secure him a fortune, Olaf sets to devising a myriad of ways to kill the children--but is ultimately thwarted by the kids' cunning. Then the three are shipped off to yet another distant relative, Count Olaf returns to the scene in disguise, and the entire process starts over again.

While Lemony Snicket (the series) wants to be Dickensian in scope, the volumes are far too repetitive to be consistently enjoyable. Regardless, to adapt a series like this to the screen, everything has to be firing on all cylinders--and it simply isn't.

The Tim Burton-influenced cinematography is darkly whimsical, and the script successfully nails the style and boils down the plot. However, unlike Christina Ricci as Wednesday in The Addams Family films, these kids are far too inexperienced to play such gloomy-doomy roles. Other great character actors like Luis Guzman, Jennifer Coolidge, and Dustin Hoffman make unnecessary appearances, and then bring nothing to the table.

Even the ordinarily hilarious Carrey seems restrained and confused as to his role--sometimes playing it straight, other times mugging for the cameras. And so, unfortunately, the blame for this ultimately boring Unfortunate Series of Events lies solely at the feet of the producers--who for reasons unknown, hired a TV director to do an auteur's job.