Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events

Jim Carrey in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

 

 

 

Somewhere near the end of this highly anticipated children’s adventure movie there’s a cameo by Dustin Hoffman. He just blurs on, says a couple of indistinct phrases and is not seen again. The pointlessness of his appearance is indicative of what’s wrong with this film, a series of disconnected and poorly motivated events which no amount of star power – Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep, Billy Connolly, Timothy Spall – can give shape to. There’s even narration courtesy of Jude Law, though it could be Father Christmas for all the difference it makes. The plot follows three young orphans, bookish Klaus, resourceful Emily and gurgling infant Sunny, as they are farmed out to a series of dotty relatives, pursued all the way by the despicably evil Count Olaf (Jim Carrey doing his Ace Ventura thing), who’s interested only in their fortune. Unusually for a children’s film, the young actors are actually rather engaging, they’re good performers who do their best to be believable, normal Edwardian kids. Production design is impressive too – as if Tim Burton at his most feverishly gothic had ram-raided an Arthur Ransome library – and the famous names all work hard at performances that are deliberately grotesque and in any other film would be enjoyable. What’s missing is any dramatic thread, leading to the growing dread that any minute another new relative will arrive and the film will go on for ever. This is the first three Snicket books telescoped into one film. Ten more to go. Unfortunately.
© Steve Morrissey 2004

 

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events – at Amazon

 

 

 

Ella Enchanted

Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy in Ella Enchanted

 

 

Cinderella updated, with Anne Hathaway as the luckless teen Ella and Hugh Dancy as Prince Char. You see what they’re doing with the names? As with the names so with the film – it doesn’t quite work. For starters we have Hathaway herself – so sweet and milky she could double up as a bedtime drink. Then there’s the plot, which has Ella being given a special gift by her fairy godmother (Vivica A Fox). This “gift” is that she must obey any order she is given. This is someone’s idea of a clever feminist twist on the old story – girls and their constrained life choices – but it hamstrings the plot, slowing the action down to a crawl. Someone else’s big idea was to chuck in the best elements of Shrek and A Knight’s Tale – irreverent dialogue, wisecracking animals, songs from the 1970s (ELO and Leo Sayer fans, roll up). It’s not all grim though. The look of the thing, for one, is fun, fresh, bright and original, with everyone living in a futuristic primary coloured version of Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood. And there are some nice turns from the cast – Minnie Driver is on good form as a dizzy fairy who can’t get the spells right; Joanna Lumley is in Patsy-from-AbFab overdrive as the wicked stepmother with two indolent daughters. The feel is kids TV, there’s obligatory multicultural tokenism and the overall idea is that if the kids don’t buy the empowerment angle, they might be distracted by the bright lights and jangly music.

© Steve Morrissey 2004

 

Ella Enchanted – at Amazon