I’m not in to the whole Harry Potter thing. I tried to watch couple of the movies, and I just found the whole thing to be bland, contrived and downright boring. I realize that I am in the minority on this, and that’s fine. I have no problem with that. If you enjoy it, then by all means, buy the books and watch the movies. I’m just saying that it is not for me.
When Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events was released in theaters, I assumed that it was a copycat film. Take another series…of children’s books that appeal to adults, add one part Jim Carrey, slap a “fun for the whole family” quote on the poster, and watch the cash roll in. I avoided it entirely. Again, it’s fine if you are into that kind of thing, it’s just not for me.
Therefore, it was with great frustration that I was sent this disc to review. I am not the person to review this title. How can I give a fair review to a film that I already have preconceived notions about? Turns out, I can do that quite well. My notions couldn’t have been more wrong. This was a fantastic film, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is not really a children’s film as much as it is an adult drama without nudity or strong language. The film is still quite dark, scary and ominous, and it would most certainly frighten younger children. It even made me squirm a couple of times.
I certainly don’t envy the marketing team on this film, because there is really no good way to accurately describe the feel of the film. Three very intelligent and wealthy children are sent to live with a distant relative when their parents die in a fire. The relative (Carrey) is an actor of marginal talents who takes the children in solely to obtain their inheritance. The children quickly discover his true intentions, and the rest of the film is spent with the children trying to escape his grasp, while simultaneously attempting to uncover the mysteries surrounding the lives of their parents and the various relatives they are sent to live with, yet have never before met.
Unfortunate Events takes place in a sort-of alternate storybook universe, residing somewhere between the worlds of Edward Scissorhands and Big Fish. This is a great place to live. Thankfully, the film is realistic enough that it doesn’t resort to the impossible prop gags of The Grinch and The Cat in the Hat. No, this is a darker and more depressing vision. Think The Adams Family without the slapstick moments. In fact, the film is so dark that the narrator (deftly voiced by Jude Law) actually warns the audience early on that they may want to leave the theater and view a happier film. Several times.
This is a wildly inventive film, and the results are simply wonderful. It is a fable for bigger children and adults. If you have not seen this film, I highly suggest that you give it a try. Chances are, it is not at all what you were expecting.
This is a clean and detailed audio track that would only have been better if it had been mastered in Dolby Headphone. The stereo track that is provided is very well done, however. In fact, the track seems to be a bit louder than most UMD offerings, which is something that I would definitely like to hear more of on future discs.
Speaking of the audio, the score in this film is particularly brilliant. Thomas Newman has created a fantastic score that plays an integral part in the emotions conveyed in the film. The music is whimsical yet dark, and the film is all the better for it.
In a word, flawless. This is easily the best UMD transfer that I have ever seen. Not only are the colors spot-on, but the disc does an amazing job of handling how dark the film is. Everything is dark, yet detailed. Nothing gets washed out, but each object on the screen can be clearly seen even in a sea of other gray objects. The “exploding house” scene is particularly impressive, with each splintered board and sheet of paper clearly visible. In fact, if anything, I would say that this video presentation is too perfect. There’s something artificial about how unbelievably clean this transfer is. Nevertheless, I am certainly not going to take points away because the transfer looks too good. This is a reference disc for showing off the beautiful screen of the PSP.
The one area in which this disc is lacking is in the extras. In what has become an annoying trend in the world of UMDs, there is not so much as a single extra on this disc. This UMD is most definitely not the preferred way to watch this film, but it works as an excellent supplement to owning the DVD for home viewing. This disc is strictly movie-only.
Lack of special features aside, this is an excellent UMD. The audio quality is great, and the video quality is even better. As I said earlier, however, this disc should be viewed as strictly a supplement to the DVD product. UMD is simply not the way to view a wonderful film such as this one. This is a film that just begs to be viewed on the big screen. For the portable experience, however, this is as good as it gets.