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If you haven’t read Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, I wonder what your childhood was like. I never finished the series, but the first four books were quite the integral part of my fourth grade years.
A Series of Unfortunate Events tells the story of the three Baudelaire Orphans Violet, Klaus, and Sunny and their series of unfortunate events that unravel after their parents tragically perish in a fire. They are to be sent to live with their closest family guardian until Violet comes of age and they can inherit their parent’s enormous fortune. They are first sent to live with their supposed fourth cousin three times removed, Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), a disturbing old man who’s evil scheme is to steal the Baudelaire fortune. As the children travel to live with different relatives, Count Olaf, who is an out of work actor, dresses up as different odd characters and tries to infiltrate the orphans homes and obtain their fortune.
After a fairly disappointing movie adaptation, because of bad writing and direction, I was very excited when I heard Netflix was producing a TV series based on the books. I just hoped it would do the books justice.
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And does it? In many ways, yes. The TV show, run by Barry Sonnenfeld, has all the quirks and cringe humor of the books, while also adding in a few twists of its own. The three children played by Malina Weismann, Louis Hynes, and Presley Smith, all gives stellar performances. The crazy world they are tossed into, filled with madness and dishonesty, is hard to comprehend, and the actors don’t pretend that they do. Their constant confusion makes the story all the more believable and makes for a nice return to realism in this very odd story. Patrick Warburton plays Lemony Snicket himself, a monotonous man who often stands in the background and recounts the Baudelaire tragedy to the audience. One realizes he has secrets of his own, and Warburton does a fantastic job keeping up the mystery.
There are plenty of supporting roles but I don’t have to talk about them, because we all care mostly about Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf. Is he good? Sometimes. I like NPH, but he’s just not that versatile as an actor, and he portrays Count Olaf with too much humor, and not enough threat. There was never really a moment where I was frightened by him. He was just too comical. While the movie from 2004 didn’t fully capture the pacing and mystery of the series, the performance of Olaf by Jim Carrey was beyond perfection, and it’s something NPH just isn’t rising up to. While Carrey’s Olaf had a twisted sense of humor, there was always a dark threat behind him, and he was someone to fear. NPH is just scary to the orphans because he’s bigger than them, but I bet I could easily over power him just by slapping him really hard. His disguises are also not very compelling, as he’s once again, too focused on humor. Carrey’s disguises where funny and disturbing. There was a very clever interpretation behind each one, and Carrey just had the perfect one liners that NPH doesn’t. I sound like I’m complaining and not praising, but I’m not trying to say NPH is bad as Olaf. I just miss Jim Carrey.
The overall look of the series is odd in an overall good way. The color scheme is a mix of vibrant and bleak, and the costume design is fantastic. There are moments however, where some animation is very mediocre, and not acceptable in a show produced in 2017. I understand this show is meant to watched by children primarily, but that’s not an excuse for bad effects. I hope they increase the budget for season 2 because I hope to not have to make this comment again.
I’ve gone on too long for now, and while I have some complaints about the lead actor’s performance of a very demanding role, I still think this series holds its own, and I’m very excited to see where they go with it in the future.
Today, Elliot is glad he’s not as unfortunate, but he still misses Jim Carrey.