What I really liked about LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS is the slightly dark, twisted and sometimes very amusing nature of the material, not to mention the film’s completely impeccable production design by sometimes Tim Burton collaborator Rick Heinrichs. Too many family movies that are too bright, too sunny and too sugar coated for their own good. Fortunately, one needn’t worry about that in LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS- the plot contains very little sunshine and there is absolutely no sugarcoating to be found here. As for the film’s production design, it is a visual marvel. The decidedly period styling marries perfectly to the slightly off kilter reality in which the central characters inhabit.
Based upon the first three books by Daniel Handler AKA Lemony Snicket, LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS tells the story of the three Baudelaire children: Violet (Emily Browning), Klaus (Liam Aiken) and Sunny (Kara & Shelby Hoffman), who find themselves orphaned after their home is destroyed in a fire. Sent to live with a distant relative named Count Olaf (a wonderfully over the top Jim Carrey), the Baudelaire Orphans discover, that their vain, hambone thespian guardian is only after the wealth that they are set to inherit. As expected, murderous plans arise, which results with the orphans being sent off to live with other distant relatives, which results in other murderous plans arising. The cast of LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS also features Timothy Spall, Billy Connolly, Meryl Streep, Catherine O'Hara, Cedric the Entertainer and Jude Law as the voice of Lemony Snicket.
Paramount Home Entertainment has made LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Again, this film is visually stunning, and meticulously transcribed to the digital medium. Sharpness and image detail continually impress. Somber hues comprise much of the film’s palette, which help give the illusion of a black and white film that is being presented in color. Still, the flesh tones are completely natural, and there are occasional vibrant colors scattered about. Blacks are velvety, whites are crisp and contrast is very smooth. Additionally, shadow detail is just terrific. The film elements used for the transfer are virtually pristine and there is almost no appreciable grain. Digital compression artifacts are always held in check.
LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS comes with a pretty nifty Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Although somewhat subdued at times, the track comes to life at full force for the film’s showpiece sequences. At those moments, the track becomes quite aggressive and enveloping. Other portions of the film are rather dialogue driven, so the outlying channels tend to be limited to ambient sounds and the musical component. Speaking of the music, LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS features a wonderful score by Thomas Newman, which is rendered with a terrific sense of presence. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the film’s dialogue is always completely understandable. The bass channel is deep, but never boomy. French and Spanish 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one features two running audio commentary tracks, the first is with director Brad Silberling, while the second again features Brad Silberling as well as the real Lemony Snicket: Daniel Handler. The Bad Beginnings section of disc one includes several featurettes. Building A Bad Actor runs twelve minutes and looks at Jim Carey’s transformation into Count Olaf. Making The Baudelaire Children Miserable is a three-minute look at the casting of the film’s youthful performers. Interactive Olaf offers a four-way split screen of Jim Carrey improving his way through various makeup tests for his character in the film. The Orphaned Scenes offers fourteen minutes of Dismal Deletions and fourteen minutes Obnoxious Outtakes, most of which feature Jim Carrey improving his way through the material.
Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming. A new section of featurettes entitled A Terrible Tragedy: Alarming Evidence From The Making Of The Film starts off with A Woeful World, which runs fifty-four minutes and focuses on the film’s production design. Costumes And Other Suspicious Disguises clocks in at sixteen minutes and looks at the stylized attire of the characters. Violet’s Functional Design is ten minutes in length and features a glimpse at the creations of the film’s fourteen-year-old inventor. CAUTION! Incredibly Deadly Vipers offers a nearly nine minute look at the critters on display in the movie. The Sad Score is a thirteen-minute program that focuses on the film’s musical component. The Volume. Frequency. Decibels section features The Unsound Sound Designer a thirty-minute program focused on creating the unique noises of the film and You Probably Shouldn’t Listen sonically dissects to brief sequences.
The Sinister Special Effects section gets rolling with An Alarming Conspiracy Involving Sunny, a six-minute program that looks at practical cinematic substitutions for the film’s youngest performers. An Even More Alarming Conspiracy Involving Sunny is a twenty-minute program that looks at digital cinematic substitutions for the film’s youngest performers. The Terrible Fire spends five minutes explaining the details of one of the film’s most complex visually enhanced shots. Trains, Leeches And Hurricanes spends nine minutes examining various other effects sequences in the film. Three Gruesome Galleries of stills close out the disc two.
Dark, slightly twisted and amusing, LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS is the kind of family entertainment that will appeal to you if you’ve always suspected that your family name should have been Addams. I found the movie itself to be quite enjoyable, not to mention being a visual treat. The DVD is a superb transcription of the film, and the kind of eye candy that many will want to feed their home theater systems.
LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS is available on DVD in a separate widescreen & full screen versions for $29.99 and the widescreen 2 disc special edition for $38.99.
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