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Reviews Comments: The film and the (first) book A Series Of Unfortunate Events film/book review by maninahat

As a kid, I loved nasty, gory stories. I grew up reading the works of Roald Dahl, and I remember how much I loved the repulsive, vindictive characters and scenarios. He was a children's author who would throw all caution to the wind and give kids exactly what they wanted.

By comparison, Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events books feel something of an empty threat. The mournful narrator spends a great deal of the story reiterating how sad or grotesque the tale will be, basically promising readers a particularly unpleasant (thus delightful) story. But that nastiness never quite comes through. There are dark themes and deaths, but they don't resonate as much as the brutal simplicity of child eating giants or worm spagetti. Whereas Dahl takes things familiar to a child like warts, toads and dirt, Snicket relies on less familiar, more adult concepts, such as inheritance and looming threats of rape. The same goes for the clever word play, which again, I feel goes over the kid's heads. I appreciate that this is aimed at a younger teenage (11-14?) market, but I still think much of the implied nastiness is lost on those readers and that Snicket fails to employ enough gratuitous grime. At around that age, I was reading Goosebumps. Though formulaic, Goosebumps books had a far better grasp of the issues that bother kids (annoying brothers, bullies, shoe laces that won't stay tied etc.) Lemony Snicket lacks that crucial familiarity.

Which brings me to the movie. To gain more appeal to the family audience, the film tones down the threats of child rape and portrays the villain as far more comical in nature. Funnily enough, I think this works much better. If Snickett's tales fail at being grotesque, they can at least be funny. Jim Carrey certainly succeeds in that regard; I haven't seen him in such a good role since The Grinch. The humour and the well realised visuals save the story and warrant a recommendation. The books, less so. I also highly recommend staying for the ending credits, which are pretty excellent in their own right.


  • Wackd
  • 22nd Nov 11
I disagree. At age 12 I read and loved the hell out of the books that were available at the time and eagerly awaited each new volume. They were quite a phenomenon amongst my older classmates, as well, second only to Potter as books they actually liked reading. Then again, anecdotal evidence only works so well, and for all I know kids in my school have abnormal tastes when compared to kids in general.

I think Goosebumps and Events were good series in their own way, but what you have to understand is that they were going for very different things. While both series have a comedic bent, Goosebumps is going for a feeling of fear or sickness whereas Events is going for more of a sadness. Events doesn't need more grime any more than Goosebumps needs to tackle arson, murder and implied rape.
  • terlwyth
  • 24th Nov 11
You clearly haven't read past the first book,and actually that film messed up everything the book did right.

They watered down not just the darkness,but the zaniness as well in hopes that Jim Carrey's LCD humor he showed in Ace Ventura could carry the film,while simultaneously making the Baudelaires cardboard cutouts. Klaus was my favorite character in the books,completely bastardized. Even at age 11 I knew it was a bum deal.

If you think the wordplay went over the kids heads,you clearly think Viewers Are Morons,it never did that. The point of A So E was to appeal to kids while also remaining good to parents.

Goosebumps was formulaic,flat,and mostly Gross-out based without any kind sophistication. I never would've checked out T.S. Eliot's works without reading that series. If aren't twelve,Goosebumps will appear to be cliche,dull,uninteresting,and predictable. Truthfully they make better films than books

Events isn't about sadness,it's about being completely ambiguous,hence why it ended the way it did. Goosebumps never would've dared questions its protagonists or actually dabbled in even things like "Even in the worst of times,there will be someone who cares" or even Adults Are Useless.

Comparing Goosebumps to A Series Of Unfortunate Events is like comparing Encyclopedia Brown to Sherlock Holmes.

  • maninahat
  • 24th Nov 11
You're right, I haven't read past the first book. That's why I only reviewed the first book.

I don't think viewers are morons. I just don't happen to think that many 11 year olds would get the Puttanesca joke, or why lines like "Olaf took a bottle of wine and poured himself some breakfast" are funny. Many won't have any real understanding of rape, having only just received sex ed, age 10 or so. I might well be underestimating the child readesr there, but I somehow doubt it. You say Events got you reading T.S. Eliot. Are we talking Old Possum's Eliot or The Waste Land Eliot?

Goosebumps is all the things you say it is. Even as a kid, I noticed a lot of those problems. But I didn't care, because I didn't exactly have an appreciation of nuance.
  • MsWoot100
  • 13th Mar 12
...I got 99% of the jokes. Ok, Puttanesca i did not quite get, but lines like "He found himself reading the same sentence over and over. He found himself reading the same sentence over and over. He found himself reading the same sentence over and over." and Olaf pouring some wine for breakfast I did get. And so did all of the other people I've met who have read all of these. so yeah, you ARE acting like Viewers Are Morons.
  • Tuckerscreator
  • 13th Mar 12
Same here. I started reading them in the fourth grade, and definitely understood those jokes quite well. And the literary allusions like to the The Waste Land, (yes, The Waste Land) did get me interested in larger literature. It's subtle, but a lot of the series was actually An Aesop for "read more and be well read", especially the Unauthorized Autobiography.

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