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Film / A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
aka: A Series Of Unfortunate Events

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Mishaps. Mayhem. Misadventures. Oh joy.

"We're very concerned."

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is a 2004 gothic black comedy film adaptation of the first three books of the A Series of Unfortunate Events franchise, directed by Brad Silberling and starring Jude Law as Lemony Snicket, Jim Carrey as Count Olaf, and Emily Browning (Violet), Liam Aiken (Klaus), and Kara and Shelby Hoffman (Sunny) as the Baudelaire children.

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, 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.

While talks of continuing the story in a potential film series remained open for a time, executive shake-ups at Paramount and the younger cast visibly aging ultimately led to this film, unfortunately, being the end of the line, in spite of modest financial success. Years later, plans for another adaptation found new life with Netflix, as the streaming giant carried through on its idea to convert the books into a television series that adapted all 13 books in the series.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards (Best Makeup, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score), and won for Best Makeup.

The film provides examples of:

  • Abled in the Adaptation: In the books, Klaus had very poor eyesight, to the point of being almost blind without his glasses. His eyesight is much better here, since he only needs them for reading.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Klaus is slightly more temperamental than in the books.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: The Baudelaires. 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.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: Count Olaf, while a a lot goofier and more comical than in the books, a definite Large Ham and prone to Evil Gloating, is also a good deal smarter and more competent than his book counterpart. Throughout the movie he's constantly one step ahead of everyone else, even managing to see though plots and schemes that his book counterpart fell for.
  • Adaptational Karma: In the novels and Netflix series, Count Olaf escapes justice, thus escaping comeuppance. In the film, however, Count Olaf ends up arrested and is forced to suffer everything the Baudelaire children had to go through before serving a life sentence. Unfortunately, the narrator then reveals this isn't actually what happened, and his theater troupe ended up as part of the jury and overturned his life sentence, thus allowing Count Olaf to escape.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Count Olaf was written as very sinister in the original books, and remains so in the movie. However, Jim Carrey's portrayal of Olaf made the character more over the top and hammy, leaning closer to comic relief.
  • Adults Are Useless: Every adult in the film is shown to be stupid, gullible, cowardly or downright villainous. The Baudelaires can only depend on themselves for hope.
  • Alliterative Name: So many brought over from the books: Curdled Cave, Horrid Harbor, Hurricane Herman, Lake Lachrymose.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Olaf's troupe includes someone who is either a very effeminate man or a very masculine woman.
  • Anachronism Stew: A deliberate example: the characters, environments, and vehicles seem to be early 20th century and the architecture of many of the buildings featured seem to range between styles popular in the late-19th to mid-20th century, but fax machines and reel-to-reel car tape decks and carphones seem to seem to point to the '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.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Olaf tries to force Violet to marry him in a staged play. His description of what he intends Violet strongly suggests that it would have been an Awful Wedded Life.
  • Arc Words:
    • "There's always something."
    • "Sanctuary."
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Especially in The Marvellous Marriage.
    Pale-Faced Woman: [flatly] What a marvellous day for a marriage.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The children initially believe that they will be living with Justice Strauss who is friendly and lives in a beautiful house only for them to find out she’s only Olaf’s neighbor and his house is not as well-kept as Strauss’ and he is quite unpleasant.
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits: The film opens with a cheerful, colorful stop-motion-style animation about a happy-go-lucky character called "The Littlest Elf". A few seconds in, the elf freezes, a record scratch is heard and everything goes dark:
    Lemony Snicket: I'm sorry to say that this is not the movie you will be watching. The movie you are about to see is extremely unpleasant.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Count Olaf in this version is a complete goofball who, while a terrible person, doesn't seem particularly dangerous. He is no less of a cold blooded murderer than he was in the books.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The children make pasta puttanesca, an Italian dish translating as "whore's sauce" (not, as Klaus innocently claims, "very few ingredients"):
    Violet: Dinner is served. Puttanesca.
  • 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 children are more 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...
  • Black Comedy: In vein of the books, the film has a very morbid and off sense of humor.
  • Bluff the Impostor: Uncle Monty exposes Count Olaf (pretending to be a herpetologist named Stefano) as an impostor 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.
  • Bookends: The second scene (after the Littlest Elf fake-out) and the penultimate scene are of the orphans looking through the burned Baudelaire mansion. The first time emphasizes the door as one of the few things still standing, the second emphasizes something coming through the door.
  • Bookworm: Klaus, the Researcher.
  • 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."
    • Lemony's description of the film's contents combines this trope with Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "clever and reasonably attractive orphans, suspicious fires, carnivorous leeches, Italian food, and secret organizations."
  • Break Them by Talking: Or rather, gloating, 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".
  • 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.
  • The Charmer: Count Olaf is a very evil version, being able to play everyone like a fiddle, except the Baudelaires.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Every single one of Aunt Josephine's fears come into play when the children are trying to escape the house breaking down. Every single one. (Except the realtors.)
    • The first time the orphans explore the burned Baudelaire mansion, the only thing standing is the door. When they come back at the end, something comes through the end with Violet's still-functioning mail alert system.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Initially played straight with Aunt Josephine who is terrified of realtors and avocados and thinks grammar is the greatest joy in life. This is later subverted as her earlier fears of splintering door handles and flaming stoves are all horrifyingly realised when her house is hit by Hurricane Herman.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Mr. Poe sends the children to live with Count Olaf because he is their closest living relative, geographically speaking. Blood-wise he's either their fourth cousin, three times removed, or their third cousin, four times removed.
  • Compartment Shot: Shots from within the kitchen cupboards to show the kids' reaction to finding vermins in there.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The film tried to cram 3 books in just under 2 hours, and as a result, plot elements regarding the wider narrative of the story's lore had to be removed.
  • 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 give anything to be here now.
      [cuts to Gustav chained to the front of a speeding train and screaming]
    • Another dark one happens in a deleted scene:
      Count Olaf: I's the boy who runs the boat down near the pier there!
      Aunt Josephine: Oh...what happened to Captain Sam?
      Count Olaf: Uhhhh...he's me third cousin on me father's side. He's afeared of that big gale comin' in. Said he started to get that sinkin' feelin'.
      [cuts to Captain Sam being thrown into the water, chained to an anchor, gurgling desperately, then cuts back to Olaf]
      Count Olaf: ...Sure he'll turn up sooner or later.
  • Coattail-Riding Relative: Count Olaf spends most of the movie trying to get the Baudelaire orphans' inheritance.
  • 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 Fahrenheit 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.
  • Crapsack World: Invoked. The narrator is clear about how the world is a terrible place, and thus the children seek some "sanctuary" from it.
  • Darker and Edgier: While this is a dark comedy like the books, this has a heavier atmosphere, especially with Olaf's schemes.
  • Dead-Hand Shot: Once Uncle Monty dies and the kids find his body, all we see of it is his hand.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sunny's baby talk has her be snarky to the adult characters, even though they can't understand her.
  • Demoted to Extra: The Hook-Handed Man. In "The Grim Grotto", his real name is revealed to be Fernald, and he's given a heavy amount of backstory and character development. Since the film is based solely on the first three books and no sequels were ever made, he's just a one-dimensional Mook here.
  • 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.
  • Direct Line to the Author: Lemony Snicket insists that this is a true story that he has extensively researched in an attempt to make the story of the orphans available to the general public.
  • Dirty Coward: It isn't Aunt Josephine's numerous crippling, irrational phobias that qualify her for this title, but rather the fact that she freely promises to keep Count Olaf's secret and to give him the Baudelaire children in exchange for her own life.
  • 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.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The second of Olaf's paper thin disguises is that of ship captain, Captain Sham. Also, the Last Chance General Store at the grade crossing.
  • The Faceless: In keeping with his portrayal in the books, Snicket's form is kept silhouetted.
  • Fake-Out Opening: Exaggerated with The Littlest Elf, which even got its own opening credits. The actual movie doesn't display the real title until the end credits.
  • Fauxreigner: Olaf as "Stephano" claims to be Italian, but he sounds more like a cross between Frank Oz (or more specifically, Fozzie Bear) and a vague foreshadowing of Heath Ledger as the Joker. Footage exists of Carrey getting make-up applied for a very different version of Stephano, with long greasy hair, an outrageous Italian accent, and generally very filthy looking. This was likely changed for being too similar to negative Italian caricatures.
  • Freak Out: Aunt Josephine came more than slightly undone after the loss of her husband, Ike. She functions, but only just.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Some of the chores seen on the list of chores given to the Baudelaires by Count Olaf:
    1. Fix the rear porch so it is back to code
    2. Dust and clean all the very important pictures of myself
    3. Clean the staircase
    4. Reupholster the living room sofa
    5. Dust and polish the wood furniture throughout the house
    6. Do all the laundry and make sure you separate the whites, the colors, and the polyesters (make sure to take special care with my costumes and delicate)
    7. Iron all the clothes
    8. Sew buttons on clothes that are missing them
    9. Clean mirrors above my makeup table, taking care that there are no streaks
    10. Wash the steps on the porch
    11. Prune trees in the front yard, and not to mention
    12. Prepare a delicious dinner for myself and my troupe
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Violet.
  • Glove Snap: Count Olaf does this in his herpetologist disguise.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: All we see of Aunt Josephine after the Lachrymose Leeches attack is a banana slip on the surface of the water. However, a deleted scene shows her actually going down with the ship in a slow, agonizing process.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The screeches emitted by the Lachrymose Leeches.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When Captain Sham (Count Olaf) says, "There ain't nothin' better than good grammar!" in front of Aunt Josephine, a Grammar Nazi.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The movie is titled Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, perhaps to emphasize the Lemony Narrator.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: To test whether "Stephano" is the real deal, Uncle Monty asks him to milk a snake named Petunia. His response makes it very clear that he has no idea what milking a snake actually entails (he believes they have udders).
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Music-box tunes and the saccharine "Littlest Elf" song play during tragic scenes.
  • Irony:
    • Aunt Josephine is consumed with myriad phobias of dangers real and imagined, and yet she can't bring herself to move out of her incredibly dangerous house, which teeters back and forth in the wind on its flimsy scaffolding.
    • Olaf lost all legal right to the family's fortune when his marriage certificate signed by him and Violet bursts into flames thanks to the same contraption he used to burn down the orphans' home and kill their parents.
  • Jump Scare: The Incredibly Deadly Viper lunging at Klaus and Sunny is at the very least startling.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: At the end of the film, after Olaf gets apprehended, he is tried and found guilty in court and put through most of the significantly harrowing situations the orphans were forced into before serving a life sentence. He manages to weasel his way out of the life sentence.
  • Laughably Evil: This version of Olaf is played by Jim Carrey in full goofball mode.
  • Lemony Narrator: Lemony Snickett is the trope-namer.
  • Making a Spectacle of Yourself: Count Olaf tries out shades in the general store while waiting for the train that will run over his adopted children.
  • MacGyvering: Violet's speciality, she gets herself and her siblings out of countless predicaments by smartly using objects and items around her.
  • Multi-Gendered Outfit: Count Olaf's Henchperson of Indeterminate Gender wears half a wedding dress sewn to half a tuxedo to Olaf and Violet's wedding.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Justice Strauss participates in The Marvelous Marriage for Olaf's "authenticity". When she realizes she just officiated an actual sham wedding between Olaf and Violet, she mutters this then runs off-stage crying about having not realized it earlier.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Violet begins signing the marriage certificate with her left (non-dominant) hand, before Olaf corrects her. In the book, the marriage is ruled void because she doesn't sign with "her own hand."
    • In the train scene, Olaf stops at and visits the Last Chance general store, a place visited by the Baudelaires at the start of the 8th book, The Hostile Hospital.
    • The general store clerk reads The Daily Punctilio, a newspaper otherwise unmentioned in the film but plays a large role in the later books.
  • Movie Superheroes Wear Black: Violet's and Sunny's outfits are changed to goth Lolita-esque dresses, rather than the blue/pink and white dresses of the books.
  • 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 of indeterminable gender."
  • Non-Mammalian Mammaries: Uncle Monty asks Stefano to milk a snake.
    Count Olaf: [as Stefano] They used to call me Old MacDonald up at the old Milking Lab there, because I'd milk these things all day long. But the little udders... they're hard to locate...
  • Not His Sled: In the novels, Violet avoids marriage to Count Olaf by signing the certificate with her left hand (there's a rule stating that signing with your non-dominant hand renders the marriage null and void). In the film, Count Olaf takes notice that she's trying that, tells her to sign it properly, causing a need for another method.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: This version of Count Olaf is, to put it bluntly, a complete goofball. He's also quite intelligent and very dangerous.
  • Not This One, That One: The kids find themselves not in the cheerful house they liked, with the friendly judge, but in the grim-looking house across the street, with Count Olaf.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: An Alternative Character Interpretation of Count Olaf could be that while he's portrayed as very goofy and melodramatic by Jim Carrey (surprise, surprise), he's also able to come up cunning plans to steal the Baudelaire fortune behind the scenes.
  • Only Sane Man: Frequently the Baudelaires are this, and Liam Aiken (who played Klaus) himself described the siblings as "the only sane people."
  • Orphaned Punchline: As Count Olaf brings his acting troupe in near the beginning, he's saying, "...tub full of ice in Baja, and I realize that these clever girls had stolen my kidney! Imagine my surpreez!"
  • Papa Wolf: Even though he's just as oblivious to Olaf's evil intentions as everyone else, Mr. Poe shows some signs of this for the children... in some ways. The main examples are him being outraged that Sunny was "driving" a car and Olaf tried to gain the Baudelaire fortune by getting Justice Strauss to unknowingly marry Violet to Olaf.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Count Olaf, repeatedly, for various reasons.
    • His first disguise, Stefano, is actually pretty terms of makeup. What is supposed to tip others off is his incompetence. His introductory lines are a good example of Malaproper, and to young geniuses like Violet and Klaus an immediate giveaway. That said, the only evidence that ensures it's really Count Olaf is The Law of Conservation of Detail — Montgomery concludes just as quickly that "Stefano" is actually a spy from the Herpetological Society.
    • Captain Sham, on the other hand, is so blatantly Olaf it's Played for Laughs. You can see a member of Olaf's acting troupe almost immediately after Sham appears to confirm it. "Sham" proceeds to romance Aunt Josephine in an equally blatant example of Adults Are Useless.
  • Pretentious Pronunciation: Count Olaf repeatedly mispronounces certain words, most noticeably sur-preez (which is actually the French way of pronouncing the word).
  • 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 (except perhaps the house itself, which is horrifically unsound), but later in the act there's a scene in which 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 own 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. Additionally, her fear of realtors is never justified, and is so ridiculous that even the narrator questions it.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: In the end credits, Johannes Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 5 in G minor (Allegro) is played by polka instruments, especially the accordion.
  • Railroad Tracks of Doom: Olaf's first plan to nab the Baudelaire fortune is to park his car on a grade crossing, and lock the children inside. At the end of the movie, we see this being reused for one of Olaf's punishments.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Uncle Monty is sympathetic, caring, listens to the children, even if he misundertands a crucial message.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In his supposed triumphant speech, Olaf calls out the adults whom the Baudelaires tried to get help from and mocks them for refusing to listen to them.
  • Record Needle Scratch: We open with the credits to a stop-motion animated picture called The Littlest Elf, whiich goes on until a needle scratch is heard and the set lights go out.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: After Olaf tries to kill the orphans by parking his car with them inside on the grade crossing, Mr. Poe rightly removes them from his guardianship, but only because he believed Olaf let baby Sunny drive. Similarly, Uncle Monty is justifiably suspicious of "Stephano" but suspects him of being a spy from the Herpetological Society, not of being Count Olaf.
  • 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.
  • Scenery Porn: All other scenery in the above. Given that it was shot by Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant, Children of Men, Sleepy Hollow), this was inevitable.
  • Shaming the Mob: Done by Olaf of all people to the audience of the play.
    Count Olaf: Oh, I'm the monster? I'm the monster? You're the monster. These children tried to tell you, but you wouldn't listen. No one ever listens to children! You think you're innocent? You're accomplices! This certificate says that I have the fortune now! AND THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT!
  • Show Within a Show: The theme song from The Littlest Elf is heard on Count Olaf's tape deck 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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the stairwell where we first meet Count Olaf, there is a portrait of Count 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.
    • The leech attack scene is a lot like the shrieking eel attack in The Princess Bride.
    • At one point, Sham threatens to give "the old wax on, wax off".
    • When Klaus knocks Captain Sham over he cries "Children of the Corn!''
  • Significant Anagram: The Marvelous Marriage is written by Al Funcoot. Al Funcoot = Count Olaf.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Count Olaf gives a few speeches in this vein to the Baudelaires.
    Klaus: Aunt Josephine's gonna tell everyone what happened!
    Count Olaf: [sarcastically] And then I'll be arrested and sent to jail and the three of you will live Happily Ever After with a friendly guardian, spending time inventing things, and reading books, and sharpening your little monkey teeth, and bravery and nobility will prevail at last, and this wicked world will slowly but surely become a place of cheerful harmony, and everyone will be singing and dancing and giggling like The Littlest Elf! A happy ending! [dead serious] Is that what you had in mind? Because I hardly think that anybody's going to believe a dead woman.
    • Later:
    Count Olaf: Oh, Violet. Violet, Violet, Violet. Violet. You're 14 years old. You should know by now that you can't have everything you want. You want a life of happiness? A roof over your head? A place to call your own and all that jazz? And what about what I want? I want that enormous fortune, and for all investigations against me to cease. You're going to help me get what I want... tonight.
  • Skewed Priorities: Aunt Josephine and the Baudelaire children in this movie scene of Curdled Cave, in the search of saving her:
    Aunt Josephone: Children, you did it! You deciphered the clues in my note.
    Violet: We're so glad you're okay.
    Aunt Josephone: It was so horrible. Count Olaf forced me to write that will and then it nearly k*lled me to add in all those grammatical errors. So did you bring groceries?
    Klaus: Groceries? We just came through a storm.
    Aunt Josephone: Well, so? How do you expect us to live in this cave if you didn't bring any food?
    Klaus: Live in the cave?
    Violet: No, Aunt Josephine, you have to come back with us. You willed us to Captain Sham. You're proof it's a lie.
    Aunt Josephone: No, no, no. It's too dangerous. I'm sorry.
    Violet: Too dangerous? You're supposed to take care of us.
    Aunt Josephone: I'm not going to talk about it any more.
  • Snicket Warning Label: Pretty much what Lemony tries to warn the viewer.
    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."
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: No one looks into the Baudelaires' guardian situation to make sure that they're being taken care of well. This is more apparent when they're living with Olaf and all sorts of things happen to them. For example, they're given one bed to share, they're forced to do chores for Olaf, and Olaf even strikes Klaus when he tries to protect Sunny. Oh, and there's that little thing of Olaf trying to kill them once he's granted custody.
  • Stealth Pun: The Baudelaire children's first guardian after Count Olaf is called Uncle Monty, who owns pythons. You guessed it.
  • Steampunk: 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.
  • Tempting Fate: During the play, Olaf says: "I have the fortune now! And there's NOTHING you can do about it!" Cue Klaus using the light focusing apparatus to burn the marriage certificate.
  • Those Two Guys: The two pale faced women from Olaf's troupe.
  • Title Drop: The part of their parents’ lost letter Violet reads at the end of the film (as well as the start of the trailer).
    Violet: At times, the world can seem like an unfriendly and sinister place. But believe us when we say that there is much more good in it than bad. And what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events may, in fact, be the first steps of a journey.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • During the leeches scene, the children scorn Aunt Josephine for her cowardice for giving Olaf custody of the children, but given the scenario they were in, she had the right idea because the children were at least able to get to safety by getting on Olaf's boat while the leaches were chewing on Josephine's boat. It wasn't the kids best idea to say that Aunt Josephine was going to tell the authorities right in front of someone that they know is a murderer.
    • Aunt Josephine was also subject of this trope because she corrected Olaf's grammar (which offended him) despite moments earlier the children told her that he is a murderer and during a scene where Olaf could have spared her.
  • The Unintelligible: Sunny (whose speech is helpfully "translated" by subtitles), though Violet and Klaus can understand her.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Justice Strauss is convinced to play a judge in the play for authenticity, in actuality she is unknowingly officiating a "real" wedding.
  • Villain Has a Point: When it looks like he's won, Olaf gives the assembled adults a lecture as brutal as it is accurate, pointing out that it was partly their fault for not listening to the Baudelaires.
  • 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 is a railroad bridge -- which emits sparks, no less. Lampshaded in the DVD commentary.
  • We Sell Everything: The Last Chance General Store sells... sunglasses, liquors, and magazines. Pretty much everything you'd expect in your typical roadside general store.
  • When She Smiles: The Baudelaires have some genuinely happy moments in the film in which they smile. Given everything that they go through, it's comforting to see them still be able to smile.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: There is a mix of actors with American accents and actors using English accents. If examined closely, the package the children receive at the end of the film is postmarked to Boston, although 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. At any rate, “England” is mentioned as a foreign country by one of the orphans in the same scene, which means it's probably not set in Great-Britain.
    • But Olaf being a Count makes it less likely to be set in the United States, as no American citizen can hold a noble title.
  • Would Harm a Child: Even though it's out of the books, the scene where Count Olaf straight-up hits Klaus across the face may feel oddly out of place in the movie's tone and pacing.
  • 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!


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): A Series Of Unfortunate Events


The Littlest Elf?

The film opens with a Tastes Like Diabetes musical CGI animation about a happy little elf, which is fortunately stopped cold by Jude Law's first voice-over.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (23 votes)

Example of:

Main / FakeOutOpening

Media sources: