Netflix Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events
By Adriel Wiedeman
A Series of Unfortunate Events follows the three Baudelaire orphans whose lives are changed for the worse when their parents are killed in a mysterious fire and they are passed from one guardian to another. They are set on uncovering the secrets behind their parents’ untimely demise, while running from the ominous Count Olaf who is determined to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune. The books, first released in 1999 and written by author Daniel Handler, are chock full of literary allusions and references to famous authors, inventors, and figures of history.
This first ever adaptation of these books to screen was in 2004, starring Jim Carrey as Count Olaf, with other A-list actors such as Jude Law and Meryl Streep. Having been a fan of the books as a kid, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. I was always disappointed that the movie only covered the first three books, with no plans to expound upon more of the story. So when Netflix announced last year they were releasing a new rendition of the books in a miniseries format, I was very excited.
On Friday the 13th, January 2017, Netflix released the first 8 episodes covering the first four books of the 13-part book series. I think this story works really well as a miniseries format and it allows them to go more in depth and cover more of the books. It has been so long since I had read the books, I had forgotten so many of the details that as I was watching the show I was surprised all over again by the many plot twists and story development.
The cast did an incredible job bringing the characters to life. Neil Patrick Harris was an incredible Count Olaf and got to put his theatre background to good use playing several dramatic and over the top characters as whom Olaf disguises himself (my favorite being Stefano in the 3rd and 4th episodes). I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive about a new actor playing Count Olaf, because Jim Carrey’s portrayal of the character would be a hard act to follow. I was pleasantly surprised with how well Neil played the character and he definitely held his own. Patrick Warburton, the king of deadpan comedy, was perfect for the melancholy Lemony Snicket, who has to recount the depressing tale of the Baudelaire orphans. His dry sarcasm and deep voice served him well in portraying the peculiar Mr. Snicket. Malina Weissman and Louis Hynes did a respectable job as the two eldest Baudelaire children, Violet and Klaus, and I am eager to see more of their character development in future episodes. The character I was most intrigued by however, was Mr. Poe, played by K. Todd Freeman, the incompetent banker who is in charge of handling the Baudelaire fortune and their legal affairs until Violet comes of age. In the movie adaptation the character is given a very small part, but in the books, his character is critical to the plot development. So it was very interesting to see them go deeper into his character.
The world Daniel Handler has created, while dark and gloomy, is always overshadowed by a ray of hope. The running joke throughout the series, begging the reader and viewer to turn away, that the Baudelaire’s story is too horrible and heartbreaking, is always dismissed. Why? Because there is a sense of hope that things will get better. Violet, Klaus and Sunny somehow manage to be able to smile and find joy in the little things, even if it’s just for a minute, and find strength to persevere. This reminds me of the famous Charles Swindoll quote “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. We are in charge of our attitudes.” A Series of Unfortunate Events is a powerful and comical portrayal of strong character and integrity during difficult times and not being defined by your circumstances.
I am very excited that Netflix has decided to bring a modern rendition of this series, alerting a new generation to a great book series and captivating story. There is also a lot for the adult viewer to enjoy in this series as well. With Neil Patrick Harris as the star, and guest appearances by Cobie Smulders, you can bet they poke fun of the controversial How I Met Your Mother finale. I thoroughly enjoyed the new show and would highly recommend checking it out!