Based on the widely popular novel by Christopher Paolini we meet Eragon (Ed Speleers) a simple farm boy living in a land overrun by evil King Galbatorix (John Malkovich) and his murderous army of Urgals. Eragon finds a large blue stone sent to him by a princess named Arya (Sienna Guillory) who has been captured by an evil sorcerer Durza (Robert Carlyle). He needs to get the stone back to the king because well it's not really a stone. As Eragon quickly finds out it’s an egg that hatches into a dragon and as cute as it is it eats meat—lots of it. Eragon seeks advice from a grizzled outspoken villager Brom (Jeremy Irons) who explains to the boy he is a dragon rider part of a legendary group killed off by the king long ago. Brom helps the boy and his voracious pet get to the Varden a group of rebels lead by the tough Aijhad (Djimon Hounsou) who have been waiting for just this moment. Meanwhile Eragon learns how to communicate with his dragon Saphira (the voice of Rachel Weisz) through his thoughts and they learn about their extraordinary powers the more they connect. Of course Durza and the Urgals won't stop before they kill the boy and his dragon. Newcomer Speleers makes the perfect dragon rider imagined by Paolini. The young actor has depth showing believable emotion throughout his journey of turning from a farm boy into a hero a lad into a man. He's destined to be a superstar coming across like a young Brad Pitt. Guillory (Resident Evil: Apocalypse) also looks the part of a princess and has great chemistry with the young master Speleers. And together they hold their own with a superstar cast of Oscar winners (Weisz and Irons) and nominees (Hounsou and Malkovich). Despite such talent however this A-list cast doesn’t really have much to do—except Irons and Malkovich who manage to chew up the scenery regardless. But it's Carlyle (The Full Monty) who seems to have the greatest fun as the wild-haired heartless wizard with bad teeth who kills at a whim. Director Stefen Fangmeier is a neophyte to filmmaking much like the film’s young star Speleers and the story’s young author Paolini who was only a teenager when he first wrote Eragon the first in a trilogy called Inheritance Trilogy. It’s an impressive directorial debut but not too surprising since Fangmeier has been mostly working in the CGI and special effects field for companies such as Mental Images and ILM and has worked on movies such as Jurassic Park Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. He gets it trust us. The computer graphics of the dragon are superb from the big blue-eyed baby--looking like a cuddly dachshund with wings--to the large clumsy winged beast who is still learning to fly and breathe fire. Fangmeier brings to life frightening moments to make us grab our seats but still be enjoyable and not too violent for the PG crowd. Sure it’s a story we’ve seen before i.e. Star Wars Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings but Fangmeier has created a unique world raw and innocent. The result is a perfect adventure film; this should be the beginning of a successful franchise.
"In this alarming cinematic event alone you will encounter a terrible fire dim lighting high tragedy a giant snake low comedy man-eating leeches and Jim Carrey " Mr. Snicket claims--and he isn't joking. It is indeed unfortunate times for the Baudelaire children who are left orphaned by a tragic fire that burned down their luxurious mansion and killed their parents. Violet (Emily Browning) one of the finest 14-year-old inventors the world has ever known her 12-year-old brother Klaus (Liam Aiken) a voracious reader and their baby sister Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman) an excellent biter are now at the mercy of unknown guardians with vague connections to their parents. They include Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep) a widow terrified of almost everything but who insists on proper grammar; Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly) a kind and warm herpetologist who holds a well-kept secret on the Baudelaire parents' past; and the most malevolent of them all Count Olaf (Jim Carrey) a wannabe actor who sets about a series of ill-fated events for the Baudelaire orphans in hopes of obtaining their vast inheritance. It's almost too much to bear--but these orphans rely on their keen intelligence and unique talents to escape Olaf's clutches.
The distressingly talented if somewhat over-the-top Jim Carrey is tailored made for the ostentatious Count Olaf much like he was for the Grinch in Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas--but this time he does it with a lot less green makeup. With a smelly disposition and one giant eyebrow Carrey sufficiently oozes the right amount of villainy as Olaf without getting too "Carreyed" away. Streep also has a marvelous time playing the skittish Aunt Josephine who is so concerned about any fateful event that may befall her inside her house she doesn't seem to realize she lives in a precarious perch above a roiling sea full of killer leeches. Connolly too takes great pleasure wrapping snakes around his neck as Uncle Monty the good-hearted reptile lover. Even Jude Law makes an appearance thankfully only in silhouette as the narrator himself Lemony Snicket. Yet even against veterans such as Carrey and Streep the stoic Baudelaire orphans make the film. They're played brilliantly by Browning (Darkness Falls) Aiken (Good Boy!) and the cute-as-a-button Hoffman twins. Unlike the inexperience of say the young Harry Potter cast when they first started out Browning and Aiken are pros bringing a rather bright and inquisitive yet suitably morose quality to their characters.
"I begged them not to do it. I begged them not to get a good director. I begged them not to cast anyone talented. I begged them not base the movie on any of my books and they chose three of them!" exclaims Mr. Snicket. Good thing the filmmakers didn't listen to Mr. Snicket aka author Daniel Handler because the story of the Baudelaire orphans and their misadventures is too sweet to pass up. It follows along the traditions of other children's literature--from the Brothers Grimm to Roald Dahl to J.K. Rowling--of absurdly awful things happening to perfectly nice children. Taking from the first three books in the series--A Bad Beginning The Reptile Room and The Wide Window--director Brad Silberling (Casper) expertly creates the Snicket world staying true to the visions and unusual style of Handler's bestsellers. Shot entirely on Hollywood sound stages the film is virtual eye candy dripping with austere sets--particularly Count Olaf's dilapidated mansion and Aunt Josephine's rickety house--that are reminiscent of Barry Sonnenfeld's creepy Addams Family and Tim Burton's bleak Sleepy Hollow (whose production designer Rick Heinrichs designed Snicket). Can't wait to see what they do in the next Snicket installment.