When it's the story that makes a book special, it can often be adapted successfully into a film, as one narrative medium morphs smoothly into another. But when a book's most valuable aspect is its prose style, filmmakers should be warned that they will be hard-pressed to recreate the virtues of their source material. That's the problem with Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, a cinematic version of the first three books in an entire cash-cow line by Daniel Handler, aka "Lemony Snicket." The snide lamentations and morose asides of the author's ironic style make the Snicket books a hoot, but these are not visual qualities and not easily translatable. That leaves director Brad Silberling and screenwriter Robert Gordon able to render only the physical features of the books' Gothic settings. The result is a sort of Tim Burton-lite that looks superb but is too scary for tots, but not quite funny enough for their parents. Despite heavy lifting on the part of a terrific cast that includes Jim Carrey and Meryl Streep, Jude Law as narrator, and a breakout performance by Australian actress Emily Browning as Violet, the tone ends up too affected and dark without the ameliorating effects of Handler's omniscient, mordant voice.