In 2004, the first three books of the darkly humorousA Series of Unfortunate Events franchise were adapted into a feature length film, starring Jude Law as Lemony Snicket.
After their parents are killed in a fire at the family mansion, Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are left in the care of Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), a sinister distant relative who wants his hands on the Baudelaire family fortune. Olaf will do anything to get his hands on the money. As they survive numerous attempts on their life and a variety of bizarre events, the orphans will learn just how bad reality is.
The film provides examples of
Actor Allusion: An unexpected one, in hindsight: in book number 8, The Hostile Hospital, Violet is compared to Sleeping Beauty. A few years later, her actress Emily Browning would play the lead role in Julia Leigh's "Sleeping Beauty".
Adaptational Attractiveness: While their appearance outside of illustrations are never really detailed in the books, the movie makes them appear much more "pretty" (excepting Violet, who was described as being pretty in the books), making Klaus look much older than he probably should, and making him no longer need glasses, which would be a vital plot point in the fourth book.
The reason for changing Klaus's glasses from Blind Without 'Em to a pince-nez he only wears while reading was to avoid making him look too similar to Harry Potter.
Adaptation Personality Change: Count Olaf was written as very sinister in the original books but in the film he is more over the top and hammy leaning closer to comic relief.
Anachronism Stew: On purpose, the characters, environments, and vehicles seem to be early 20th century, but fax machines and reel-to-reel car tape decks and carphones seem to be 80s, and Olaf mentions a cell phone in a deleted scene. Given that Poe actually has to feel himself to check, one assumes that giant 80s-style cell phones aren't common at the time.
Ascended Fanboy: What got Meryl Streep the part of Aunt Josephine was the request of her daughter, a huge fan of the books.
Bait-and-Switch Credits: The film opens by making you think you will be seeing a happy stop-motion animated tale about a little elf, but a few minutes later, when the happy elf is skipping over some rocks in the water, an abrupt record scratch is heard and the set lights go dark:
Lemony Snicket: I'm sorry to inform that this is not the movie you will be watching. The movie you are about to see is extremely unpleasant. If you wish to see a film about a happy little elf, then I'm sure there is still plenty of seating in theatre number two. However, if you like stories about clever and reasonably attractive orphans, suspicious fires, carnivorous leeches, Italian food and secret organizations, then stay, as I retrace each and every one of the Baudelaire children's woeful steps. My name is Lemony Snicket, and it is my sad duty to document this tale.
Bilingual Bonus: The children make pasta Puttanesca, an Italian dish translating as "whore's sauce."
Billed Above The Title: The advertising often showed Jim Carrey's name and characters way above the central characters of the series. While Jim Carrey is the main antagonist, the others are not as important.
Bizarrchitecture: To a certain extent, the use of eye motifs in Count Olaf's house. Aunt Josephine's house clinging to the edge of a cliff counts as well, though THAT one didn't last long.....
Bluff The Imposter: Uncle Monty exposes Count Olaf (pretending to be a herpetologist named Stefano) as an imposter by asking him to milk Petunia the snake.
Body Motifs: The eye that first appears in Count Olaf's ankle tattoo, and later in many other places.
Breaking Speech: Or rather, gloat, in the movie. Olaf reveals to the audience that he has just legally married Violet and played everyone for a sap. When Mr. Poe demands that the police arrest him, Olaf calls Poe and everyone out on how the kids had repeatedly tried to warn the adults and asked for help, but they wouldn't listen to them. "No one ever listens to children".
Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "Now would be an excellent time to get up and walk out of the theater, living room, or airplane where this film is being shown."
The Cameo: The Aflac duck is milling about on the boat moored at the little dock beneath Aunt Josephine's cliff-overhanging house when he nearly gets hit by the falling stove.
Cassandra Truth: Every time the Baudelaires see through Olaf's two different disguises (his Stephano and his Captain Sham looks), nobody believes them in time.
Cutaway Gag: A dark one when Olaf shows up as Stephano at Uncle Monty's place:
Uncle Monty: My chief assistant, Gustav, took sick and phoned not one hour ago.
Count Olaf: He'd do anything to be here now.
[Cuts to Gustav chained to the front of a speeding train and screaming]
City with No Name: Although many fictional place names are mentioned, the main city where the Baudelaires used to live is never named. (The film identifies it as Boston, but this never occurs in the books.)
Convection Schmonvection: Well, technically "Radiation Schmadiation." Klaus uses Olaf's sunlight-refracting weapon to incinerate the wedding contract. The instant the sunlight hits the paper, it catches on fire. That means the thing was heated to about 400 degrees Farenheit just like that. Never mind the fact that Klaus perfectly lined up the device to hit such a small target, how come Olaf's hand didn't get singed? Or, you know, the stage didn't catch fire? There should at least have been smoke, considering how easily the paper went up.
Devil in Plain Sight: Count Olaf is almost always one of these, and no one believes the Baudelaires until they finally prove that his latest persona is a criminal. Averted with Olaf's assistants, who are never detected by the Baudelaires.
Dirty Coward: It isn't Aunt Josephine's numerous, crippling, irrational phobias that qualify her for this title, but rather the way she instantly and shamelessly promises not to reveal Count Olaf's "Captain Sham" persona and offers for him to take the children when she is threatened. To be fair to her, she's widowed, terrified of everything and got no support in life. Can you blame her for what she did?
Don't Eat And Swim: Aunt Josephine informs Violet, Klaus and Sunny that her husband Ike was eaten by leeches because he did not wait an hour before going into the water - he only waited 45 minutes.
DVD Commentary: Two, one that comes in the regular "actors and director" flavor and one that features the director and Daniel Handler in character as Lemony Snicket himself, who is obviously very disturbed at the director's insistence on introducing Count Olaf into the plot at all, let alone (supposedly) As Himself. Handler also goes about acting like the movie's events really happened and Count Olaf is playing himself, having locked Jim Carrey away somewhere.
Nominal Importance: Like in the books, Count Olaf's assistants are known only as "the hook-handed man," "the bald man with a long nose," "the white-faced women," and "the person who looks like neither a man nor a woman."
Not This One, That One: The kids find themselves not in the house they liked, with the friendly judge, but in the grim-looking house across the street, with Count Olaf.
Paper-Thin Disguise: Count Olaf, over and over again, probably because the Captain Sham and Stephano disguises don't look all that different from his regular appearance.
Properly Paranoid: The Baudelaires, about Count Olaf's many attempts to infiltrate their lives and snatch them for their fortune.
Zig-zagged with Aunt Josephine. She is afraid of how everything in her house could kill her, and then the scene where all her crazy fears come true (the refrigerator comes loose and falls over; the stove disconnects from the gas lines and ignites from sparks coming from the telephone; the other end of the stove gas line heats a doorknob to the point that it explodes into millions of tiny fragments, etc.). It makes us realize that maybe, just maybe, she's not as crazy as she seems. Then she sells the orphans out to Count Olaf to save her life, and we realize she is truly crazy to think he'll spare someone who could, albeit unlikely, speak out against him and reveal that Captain Sham is actually Count Olaf.
Record Needle Scratch: We open with the credits to a stop-motion animated picture called The Littlest Elf, which goes on until a needle scratch is heard and the set lights go out.
Scarpia Ultimatum: Olaf threatens to drop Sunny from a tower if Violet doesn't go through with his wedding scheme.
Scenery Gorn: The ruins of the Baudelaire mansion are a straight example. Count Olaf's house, with holes in the ceiling and a kitchen in need of a little TLC, is also this trope. And Aunt Josephine's house after it gets demolished.
Show Within a Show: The theme song from The Littlest Elf is heard on Count Olaf's car stereo when the orphans are trapped on the grade crossing, and later on Mr. Poe's stereo as his car is being ferried across Lake Lachrymose. Count Olaf has a bobblehead of the elf, whose head is repurposed as part of an improvised pulley to pull on the track switch at the grade crossing, implying it's a film within the world of the story. This ties in perfectly with the conceit that Snicket's intended audience is also part of that world, when he constantly recommends ditching out and seeing that movie instead.
In the stairwell where we first meet Count Olaf, there is a portrait of Olaf in Shakespearian garb, reaching out with his hand. This is almost an exact duplicate of a picture of John Barrymore playing Hamlet.
Lon Chaney in his The Phantom of the Opera getup can be seen on the magazine Count Olaf browses at the Last Chance General Store.
Snicket Warning Label: "I'm sorry to inform that this is not the movie you will be watching. The movie you are about to see is extremely unpleasant. If you wish to see a film about a happy little elf, then I'm sure there is still plenty of seating in theatre number two. However, if you like stories about clever and reasonably attractive orphans, suspicious fires, carnivorous leeches, Italian food and secret organizations, then stay, as I retrace each and every one of the Baudelaire children's woeful steps. My name is Lemony Snicket, and it is my sad duty to document this tale."
Stealth Pun: The Baudelaire children's first guardian after Count Olaf is called Uncle Monty, who owns pythons. You guessed it.
Steam Punk: For the most part. A touch of Clock Punk as Lemony Snicket is shown working on his manuscript inside a Clock Tower with all the wonderful gears.
The Unintelligible: Sunny (whose speech is helpfully "translated" by subtitles), though Violet and Klaus can understand her.
Visual Pun: When the Baudelaires first meet Justice Strauss, we only see her side of the street, a lovely little place that would be ideal for three growing children. Then Strauss gently lets them down, by pointing them to Olaf's mansion. If you look closely, the flyover bridge separating their two houses has a set of railroad tracks - which emit sparks, no less.
We Sell Everything: The Last Chance General Store sells sunglasses, liquors, and magazines.
If examined closely, the package the children receive at the end of the film is postmarked to Boston. The film is non-canon, and if Boston were the location, it'd be a highly fictionalized version of the city, considering that the grade crossing scene takes place in an environment not unlike Colorado or New Mexico.
Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Aunt Josephine is this for nearly everything, even realtors. Though it turns out that not only was she completely normal before her husband Ike died, but very adventurous as well!