Story by Ty Smith, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Netflix
“Look away, look away.” Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” tells viewers to stop watching in the opening theme, and continues throughout the series to implore the viewers to stop, turn back, look away. Only misery and misfortune await those who would watch this series, but despite the show itself telling viewers to turn away, I’d heartily recommend the opposite. I don’t want to sound like a shill, but I’m finding it difficult not to sound like I’m overselling this series. Netflix’s reinvention of Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” succeeds where the movie failed. Indeed, almost everything that was done wrong in Jim Carrey’s 2004 movie was done right in this new television show.
For those unfamiliar with the series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” follows three children, Sunny, Violet and Klaus Baudelaire, three recently-orphaned children, who lost their parents and their home in a dreadful fire. They spend their time outrunning and outrunning the dastardly Count Olaf, a mysterious and dreadful figure who wishes the children dead, so that he may procure the fortune left to them by their parents. Originally a series of books penned by Dan Handler under the pen name Lemony Snicket, “Unfortunate Events” was adapted into a movie in 2004. Unfortunately, the movie received a lukewarm reception by critics and audiences alike, and the series has disappeared from any screens, movie or otherwise, until now.
Dan Handler has returned to the series by writing the script for Netflix’s recent adaption of the books. Handler enlisted the help of Barry Sonnenfeld, of “Pushing Daisies” and “The Addams Family” fame, and Neil Patrick Harris as the show’s producers to great effect.
The casting in the show is absolutely superb. The three actors who play the three Baudelaires are incredibly talented. Malina Weissman plays Violet, the young inventor. Louis Hynes plays Klaus, the pre-teen bookworm. Presley Smith is Sunny, a surprisingly expressive baby. Each story is supported by a cast of equally wonderful characters. Joan Cusack reprises her 2004 movie role as Justice Strauss, Count Olaf’s well-meaning but ultimately hapless neighbor, and Alfre Woodard has her best role in years as an easily frightened woman. Other big names such as Catherine O’Hara and Aasif Mandvi make appearances as wonderfully outlandish side characters. Lemony Snicket himself appears throughout the series, portrayed by Patrick Warburton, whose delivery of Snicket’s no-nonsense narration and deadpanned disclaimers add a spark of self-awareness to the series.
No one, however, is more outlandish than Neil Patrick Harris. Harris takes on the role of the villainous Count Olaf in a performance that is wonderfully campy and appropriately dastardly. His character seems like a throwback to when he played the titular evil character in Joss Whedon’s “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” but while Harris’ Dr. Horrible was campy and outrageous, Count Olaf takes it up to 11.
The show itself is charming in a strange way, and doesn’t fail to draw viewers into the odd but relatable world of the Baudelaire children. However, the set does an amazing job of portraying Lemony Snicket’s world. Most scenes are filmed in a drained grey filter, accenting the dreadful and terrible events that take place within them, but some shots are filled with bright, vivid colors, providing a contrast to the dismal tone the rest of the series takes. The pacing is a bit strange, however. Every two episodes represent one book in the series, so it feels more like four mini-series put together rather than eight episodes, and each episode ranges anywhere from forty minutes to just over an hour, giving a feel of inconsistency to the series.
Despite this, I would suggest you ignore the show’s constant warnings to look away, and give “A Series of Unfortunate Events” a watch. Season One is now streaming on Netflix.
About the Writer…
Ty Smith is from a small town located in the thumb of Michigan. He loves writing, reading, music, and video games. He also believes that cats are better than dogs.