Last night I went to the Waterfront to see Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I met up with Jess and three people I'd never met, Claire, Mike and Jenn, whose names I somehow miraculously managed to remember (I'm normally terrible with names), though I don't know that I could pick them out of a crowd. Anyway, thoughts on the movie:
I agree with her on the main points that she made: very nice production values, the presence of allegory (although I think I would have just called it “examples”, but then again, I don't distinguish reality that doesn't affect me personally from fantasy in many cases), and the credits, which actually compelled me to stay in my seat. I had the same reaction to the house on stilts—that it seemed like a huge incongruity for such a fearful character to live there. And I wonder why more movies don't take their credits more seriously—I guess they're just put in as a formality.
I didn't know Jim Carrey was in the movie at all until the credits. I had been forewarned, but I had forgotten, and when he first appeared he was so heavily made up that from that point on, whenever I saw Count Olaf I always thought “oh, there's Count Olaf” and never questioned who was playing him. I guess it's a tribute both to the makeup artists and the actor that all I saw was the character.
About halfway through the movie, I heard a particular segment of the music and thought “hey, that sounds kind of like American Beauty”. I brushed it aside, but I was pretty gratified when the credits rolled around and the music was indeed by Thomas Newman.
I didn't think the segments that didn't actually happen, particularly the last one, were handled as well as those on Six Feet Under. I say that because, in retrospect, I don't remember any of the things in the imagined segments of Six Feet Under as having actually happened, whereas I have to think and remind myself that no, Count Olaf was not actually put through each of the painful experiences he had caused the children to suffer.
When the Count was described as greedy and selfish, I couldn't help but be annoyed. Greedy, yes, that has a connotation of monstrosity. But I can't get away from thinking of “selfish” in the literal sense of ”concerned with the self”. Merriam-Webster defines “selfish” as
1 : concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others
Another Merriam-Webster definition perhaps clarifies my opinion:
Pronunciation: 'E-g&-"wi-z&m also 'e-
1 a : a doctrine that individual self-interest is the actual motive of all conscious action b : a doctrine that individual self-interest is the valid end of all actions
I'm an egoist type 1a, and I think that all apparent exceptions are best explained by the fact that the self is fuzzy and sometimes encompasses other people. I guess this makes being “selfish” in my personal vocabulary a tautology, but still, it annoys me for some reason when people use it to criticize.
I really liked all four of the main characters in the movie. They were well-characterized and distinct, and Sunny in particular, who could have been a very weak character, did an admirable job of providing humorous commentary. Actually, one thing that pervaded the movie was humor—I wouldn't call it a comedy, but there were a large number of laugh-out-loud moments. And then again, I wouldn't really have called it a kid's movie, either, because it seems like there was a lot of stuff in it that kids wouldn't get—but then again, I've determined that I probably systematically underestimate kids' intelligence, so ignore that. They did do one thing that's quite typical of a kid's movie: the kids were brilliant, and all adults (except the kids' parents, who weren't very present in the movie) were either incompetent or evil. They made me buy it though, perhaps because I tend to think that most people are incompetent (though perhaps not as ridiculously so as some of the characters in the movie) and I'm usually willing to accept extraordinary protagonists.
Oddly, since I usually have the opposite complaint, I thought the movie was too short. At the end, it felt like there could have been another 20 to 30 minutes of plot in there, easily. Of course, I doubt this would have conformed to the books (which I haven't read).
Overall: umm, I think trying to reduce movie quality to a numeric scale is pretty meaningless, but it was a worthwhile use of my time and money to see it. It was good enough I'd be willing to watch it again, though not good enough I feel compelled to seek it out repeatedly.