LOS ANGELES – Making movies from popular books is a risky business. But "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" (search) hopes to find a happy ending at a theater near you.
The movie, which opens Friday, is the big-screen adaptation of the first three books in the wildly popular "Lemony Snicket" children's-book series (book No. 11 was just released). And it stars Jim Carrey (search) multi-tasking as different characters.
But will it live up to the books?
"I want people to be happy that like the books for sure, but I am not going to lose any sleep over it," Carrey told FOX News, his characteristic wit on display.
The books (and the movie) tell the story of the three Baudelaire orphans: Violet, Klaus and Sunny.
Violet, age 14, is an accomplished inventor; Klaus, the middle child, is a bookworm and the resident brainiac; Sunny, the youngest, simply enjoys biting things.
The children are as unfortunate as they are gifted and quirky. The first book begins with their parents being burned to death in a raging house fire. The orphans are sent to live with a distant relative, the greedy and sinister Count Olaf (played by Carrey), who devotes all his energy to trying to kill the children and steal their vast inheritance.
"This is not a happy tale, obviously," Carrey told The Associated Press at the film's premiere on Sunday, giving the impression he had already heard a million questions about the darkness of the film. "It's a very serious, a very serious downer of a movie. So I'm going to be shocked if anyone goes to see this thing."
Don't buy it. Much of the on-the-carpet buzzing at the premiere was over a successful out-of-town test-screening of the movie, which is being compared to the "Harry Potter" films.
British character actor Timothy Spall (search), who appears in both "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Lemony Snicket," said the two movies are actually quite different.
"Where 'Harry Potter' is ostensibly about magic, and the use of magic and kids growing up, there's no magic in this," he said. "There's sinister, there's evil in this."
"But it's not going to scare kids," added Emily Browning (search), who plays Violet.
Carrey wasn't so sure.
"I don't think we can really understand the psychological ramifications of it yet," he said, joking again. "Maybe 10 years from now, when this generation grows up, you know..."
Serial killers may result?
"It could happen," Carrey replied. "And it could be my fault."
Playing opposite Carrey is tough for any actor, let alone a couple of impressionable kids.
"Once in a while like Liam [Aiken, who plays Klaus] and I would be face-to-face in a scene. I'm stepping on his foot, because I want reality, I want real reactions, I want real happiness, real sadness, real joy," Carrey told FOX News.
"I told them they were adopted for real, I had the people come down and tell them, I would keep them off guard that way," the "Dumb and Dumber" actor added. "Sometimes I ate garlic before big scenes. I just keep them on their toes."
So what has made these books so popular among young readers? Perhaps because they are such a far cry from the cheery books normally associated with children's literature.
They are weird. And dark. The very first sentence of the first book, "The Bad Beginning," reads, "If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book."
Children throughout the world have been gleefully ignoring that advice. The series has also spawned an adult cult following, devoted not just to reading the books, but to speculating on the Internet about possible obscure references woven into the story by author Daniel Handler (search).
Two of the children, Klaus and Sunny, just happen to share their names with the infamous Claus von Bulow (search) and his ill-fated wife, whose alleged attempted murder was the inspiration for the film "Reversal of Fortune."
Then there is the family friend Poe, who suffers from a terrible cough and shares his name with one Edgar Allen. A stretch? Yes. But the books have found their audience among young and old.
And students of French literature know well the infamous, drug-taking, half-mad 19th-century poet Charles Baudelaire (search), who translated Poe and whose greatest work was entitled "The Flowers of Evil."
Will the movie be a hit as well? It certainly doesn't lack star power, with Meryl Streep (search) and Jude Law (search) rounding out an all-star cast. This aside, the question is, will it be too dark for audiences?
Who knows? Most likely, kids out there are asking, "Will it be dark enough?"
FOX News' Mike Waco, William LaJeunesse, the New York Post's Krister Johnson and The Associated Press' Michael Cidoni contributed to this report.