Thomas Newman,
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
(Sony, 2004)

Listeners unfamiliar with Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events are likely to find its soundtrack unlistenably eclectic. Consider the first track, "The Bad Beginning," an analogy for the whole: about 10 seconds into a kitschy ditty that could rival Disney for pure saccharinity, it abruptly changes into one of Thomas Newman's brooding, melancholic refrains. Those who have seen the film will recognize it as the music from the tongue-in-cheek opening scenes in which it works very well to set -- and change -- a mood, but it makes for jarring listening for the uninitiated.

The 29 short tracks that make up the soundtrack fall into two main categories: the idiosyncratic, impossible to ignore tracks that accompany specific scenes in the film, and the quieter, more conventional soundtrack instrumentals. In the former are tracks ranging from the mischievous, staccato sounds of "Chez Olaf" to the Indiana Jones adventurousness of "The Reptile Room" and the demented accordion theme of "The Marvelous Marriage." Even the opening Disney-esque song gets a full rendition later on in the CD in "Loverly Spring." Random, yes, but also oddly appealing, especially on repeated listenings.

Interspersed between these are more familiar soundtrack themes like the wistful piano melody heard most extensively in "The Letter that Never Came" and the eerie music box tune in "VFD." (It was used, quite appropriately, as trailer music for Corpse Bride.) These less obtrusive tracks are likely to appeal to Newman fans, though Newman treads no new ground with them and is occasionally in danger of repeating himself. However, the final track, "Driving Away," with its slick electronic beat and subtle exoticism, is something altogether different. It caught my attention when it was played during the closing credits and was my single strongest reason for buying the CD. Interestingly enough, it doesn't clash with the other tracks on the soundtrack -- no doubt because of the enormous variety already present.

Unusual and not without its charms, the soundtrack to Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events nonetheless works well only as a soundtrack. Unlike some of Newman's other soundtracks (i.e. American Beauty and Road to Perdition), this one is too distracting to be background music and too eclectic to create any particular atmosphere except that of the film. It's a fun listen for fans of the movie, but it lacks the broader musical appeal that would make knowledge of the film unnecessary.

by Jennifer Mo
5 November 2005

Buy it from