‘Lemony’ fresh despite warnings
The responsible movie reviewer in me wants to chide Jim Carrey for “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” but I find myself unable to make the requisite stern face.
That guy keeps reminding me of how Carrey anchored the trippy “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” humanized “The Truman Show” and how he’s no longer the human cartoon from “The Mask” but rather an actor with Oscar nominations under his belt and stable serotonin levels. That reviewer definitely doesn’t think it’s good to see Carrey gleefully wrapping his famously rubber visage around the role of villainous Count Olaf and chewing up scenery to a degree that would make Godzilla blush.Sadly, the responsible movie reviewer doesn’t make a very compelling case in the face of a movie that’s silly, fun and frequently hilarious despite its repeated, dire warnings to the contrary.Those warnings and the Lemony Snicket name are important to the movie – almost, if not as much, as Carrey’s name, which stands above the title. Because even though Carrey’s the catalyst for the first installment in the series, which covers the first three of the 11 books in author Daniel Handler’s Lemony Snicket canon, he’s inheriting a franchise.
Theme and mood figure prominently in the franchise, which follows the Baudelaire orphans through a series of events that narrator Snicket (the omnipresent voice of the now ubiquitous Jude Law) continually reminds viewers, are unfortunate, unpleasant and unfair. So the stock in trade the franchise sets behind Carrey is a grim sense of humor and a sense of style that’s equal parts Charles Dickens and Tim Burton.But Carrey justifies his name above the title by filling in a role that makes the Lemony Snicket franchise go. As Olaf’s not only a stock villain but a hammy stage actor to boot, it frees Carrey from the usual negative consequences of overacting, and he embraces the role with relish.Without Carrey, Lemony Snicket’s cupboard certainly isn’t bare – it rests on the second-most-popular series of children’s books behind the Harry Potter cycle, and the two actors playing the two elder Baudelaire sibs – Liam Atkins and Emily George – are great, and actually look and act like brother and sister.
But Carrey’s presence can’t help but draw attention away from a few flaws. Cramming three books into one relatively brief movie makes the first installment feel perfunctory and truncated, and I had the sense that, as enjoyable as it was, it could have been even better.But with the first movie covering only the first three books, there’s plenty of time to work out the problems. What’s important is the first movie set the right precedent for facial expressions – both Carrey’s and the moviegoer’s. Those two names – Jim Carrey and Lemony Snicket – say a lot about a franchise that directly counters the rictus holiday grin with a fresh, sour sense of humor that masks what a fun movie “A Series of Unfortunate Event” really is.Dan Thomas might be a doppelganger for Klaus, but the erstwhile Summit Daily News arts and entertainment editor is ubiquitous around Glenwood Springs.
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