Australian Council on Children and the Media

Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events

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Short takes

Under 8s may be scared

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • a review of Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 17 December 2004.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Children under eight may find many aspects of the film scary or disturbing, including the deaths of the childrenu2019s parents and guardians, and childrenu2019s life-threatening experiences. The dialogue and plot may also be confusing to younger children.
Children over the age of 8 Children over 8 years should be able to watch this film with or without parental guidance.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes, Some scenes may frighten young children
Length 108 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

We are warned by a shadowed narrator, Lemony Snicket’s, that the following tale is not a happy one.

After a mysterious fire destroys their home and leaves them orphaned, Violet (an inventor), Klaus (with a photographic memory) and Sunny (who enjoys biting things!) Baudelaire are left with a large inheritance and in the care of their guardian, Count Olaf. Count Olaf, using his skills as an actor, master of disguise and evil genius, plots to secure the inheritance for himself, placing the children in situations of great danger. The children, using their own considerable abilities, courage and cooperation, manage to foil his plans. They are then moved into the care of their kindly Uncle Monty and anxious Aunty Josephine respectively, however after more unfortunate and distressing events (at the hands of a thinly disguised Count Olaf), the children again fall into the clutches of their dastardly guardian. They must use their combined skills one final time to escape from Count Olaf and reveal his true character to the world. In the process they learn what truly makes a family and home.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There are few scenes of physical violence:

  • An angry Count Olaf strikes Klaus in the face, causing him to fall down.
  • Sunny is then heard to bite Count Olaf on the leg and we hear and see his response to this. This is treated as comical event in the film.
  • While trying to rescue Sunny, Klaus is attacked (but not harmed) by one of Count Olaf’s acting troupe, who wields a hook in his hand.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

There are multiple scenes in this movie that would be scary for younger children:

  • A number of characters die (their deaths are never shown) e.g. Mr and Mrs Baudelaire; Uncle Monty (we are shown his limp hand resting over a chair under blue lighting); Aunty Josephine (we see her being left on a boat that is being attacked by swarming leeches); Uncle Monty’s assistant is shown screaming while tied to the front of a fast moving train (although this treated as  comical).
  • Many of the scenes and sets are dark and gloomy. Most of the characters are dressed in black. The adult characters are often exaggerated, unattractive or menacing.
  • The children are often intimidated by, yelled at, locked up or forced to work by Count Olaf. He appears to enjoy this. The children, however, do not appear very frightened by him and many of his threats or requests are shown in a comical fashion.
  • Count Olaf and his acting troupe don a few disguises e.g. Uncle Monty’s replacement assistant / Captain Sham with a wooden leg – only the children can see through the disguises.
  • Count Olaf traps the children in a locked car over railway tracks. Although they are able to save themselves from the fast approaching train, it is somewhat suspenseful. Also Count Olaf is shown to ignore their pleas for help and in fact, laughs at their misfortune.
  • Scenes with snakes (Uncle Monty is a herpetologist), particularly the ‘killer python’. We learn that the killer python isn’t actually harmful and there is a scene in which Sunny is happily playing with the hissing snake. Count Olaf’s kitchen is filled with bugs, worms, bats. The children themselves are not afraid any of these animals/insect.
  • The children are alone in their aunt’s home when the house is hit by a realistically fierce hurricane, with lots of flying debris, falling objects and ovens on fire. At the end of the storm they are trapped upon a small precipice at a great height.
  • The children go looking for their aunt in a dark echoing cave. Eerie music plays over the scene.
  • A scene in which the children and their aunt are attacked by a swarm of leeches, while stuck on a small boat at sea. They are rescued by the looming shadow of Count Olaf.
  • Violet is forced into a marriage ceremony with Count Olaf (for the inheritance). Both Violet and Klaus are shown to be upset about this and all seems hopeless.
  • Sunny is trapped in a cage which is hanging out of a tower window. Count Olaf threatens to drop it if Violet doesn’t go through with the wedding play.
  • While trying to rescue Sunny from the tower, Klaus is attacked from the shadows by one of Count Olaf’s troupe. This man wields a hook in his hand. (Klaus is unharmed).
  • As part of his punishment, Count Olaf has to endure the ‘unfortunate events’ he created e.g. being trapped in a car on railway tracks. Although he is alarmed, the scenes are comical.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be scared or disturbed by the scenes described above.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In general, most children over the age of eight would not be frightened by this movie.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

It is unlikely that children over thirteen would be scared by this movie.

Sexual references

None of concern.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern.

Use of substances

Although there are no scenes depicting substance or alcohol use, Count Olaf’s kitchen contains many empty wine bottles.

Coarse language

Count Olaf utters “Damn it” in the presence of the children and when disguised as Captain Sham, likens his face to a “hen’s arse”.

In a nutshell

The take home messages from this film are that:

  • although there are good and bad people in this world, good wins out over evil,
  • the orphaned children need only have each other to have a family, home and create a sanctuary.

Values to encourage are that:

  • the siblings are always kind, complimentary, caring and cooperative with each other.
  • despite all the dire events around them, the children never give up and make the best of the circumstances they are in.
  • the children show good imagination, courage and independence.
  • they do not require violent methods to save themselves from their predicaments.
  • all the children have strengths that are not gender dependent and contribute equally no matter what their age.

The following content could be used by parents to discuss with their children what their own family’s values are, and what the real life consequences can be of some actions and attitudes:

  • Count Olaf only employs devious methods to get what he wants, harming many people on the way.
  • the movie suggests that adults are reluctant to believe what children tell them.

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