This both fantastic and flawed adaptation of the first three of currently 11 Lemony Snicket (the pen name of Daniel Handler) books begins with the reporting of the death of the Baudelaire parents by fire and then litters the future of the three Baudelaire orphans with such potholes as a greed-driven guardian, deception, enslavement, a giant snake, carnivorous leeches, a hurricane, murder and child abuse. Fourteen-year-old Violet (Emily Browning) is an inventor. Her younger brother, Klaus (Liam Aiken), is a bookworm with a photographic memory. And precocious baby Sunny (played by twins Kara and Shelby Hoffman) likes to bite things. They pool their talent to thwart the attempts of a distant uncle (Jim Carrey) to swindle them out of the family fortune. It is an eye-popping, darkly humorous, irreverent and wondrous adventure that director Brad Silberling (City of Angels
) and company splash onto the screen with exhilarating vision and verve.