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Carrey's Curious Count

By Justin Rude
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page Y05

'Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" follows the three Baudelaire orphans through the trials that follow their parents' deaths. Though the movie boasts a large cast with some impressive names, it really has two stars: Jim Carrey, who plays the orphans' scheming guardian, Count Olaf, and the art direction that so effectively depicts the orphans' dreary world.

The collector's edition DVD, available Tuesday, wisely focuses on these aspects of the film with some well-chosen extras.

As Count Olaf, the sinister actor who adopts the orphans in a plot to acquire their inheritance, Carrey puts on a performance that is over the top -- even for him. The homicidal count is the perfect vehicle for Carrey's signature brand of physical comedy. He shifts his malleable mug from one absurd expression to the next with few nods to rationality or reasonable emotion.

Many of the deleted scenes and outtakes, found on the first of the two discs, are nothing more than alternate or long-form versions of Count Olaf monologues. These alternate Carrey improvisations are often as entertaining as their feature counterparts, but failed to make the cut because they were too long or, in some cases, too dark.

Also on the first disc are the features "Interactive Olaf," a look at Carrey's screen and wardrobe tests for each of Olaf's personas, and "Building a Bad Actor," which shows how Carrey and director Brad Silberling collaborated to create the screen version of the count.

While the first disc focuses solely on Carrey, the second looks at production, art direction and costuming. The setting is stylized and elaborate: The story takes place in an indeterminate time when all women wear dresses with puffy sleeves and car phones resemble rotary-phone receivers. A making-of featurette, production gallery and behind-the-scenes glimpses show the elaborate special effects and sound production that went into creating "Lemony Snicket."

The DVD includes the requisite audio commentary tracks, featuring Silberling and Lemony Snicket himself, the author of the children's books that inspired the film.

The DVD treatment of "Lemony Snicket" succeeds because it knows exactly which aspects of the film to expand upon. In a cast that includes Billy Connolly, Cedric the Entertainer, Meryl Streep and Jude Law, it is Carrey alone who runs the show.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events -- TWO-Disc Widescreen Collector's Edition

Paramount Home Video;

DVD $38.99; rated PG; available Tuesday

New on DVD:

Chop Socky (New Video Group; DVD $26.95; not rated; available Tuesday) Wong Fei Hung, Chang Che, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, John Woo, Jet Li, Sammo Hung, Lar Kar-Leung and others are featured in this entertaining history of Hong Kong action cinema that begins with the genre's roots in the Beijing Opera and follows it to today's big-budget extravaganzas.

Wildboyz -- Second Season (Paramount Home Video: two-disc DVD $26.99; not rated; available Tuesday) Steve-O and Chris Pontius continue to travel the world in search of exotic places where they can meet, learn about and get attacked by animals.

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