Like many people, I welcome the reappearance of my childhood in my adult life. The constant rumours of The Spice Girls reunion, Hatchimals (the reincarnation of Furbies), and the Power Rangers trailer. Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is no exception. Having read all thirteen books, it’s clear to me that Netflix aimed for fan service instead of pleasing all audiences. To some, A Series of Unfortunate Events is accurate to the book series. To others, the series is a cringe-fest. Hopefully, those who haven’t read the books can still recognize that the quality acting and writing.
The Baudelaires are three exceptional children. Violet (Malina Weissman) is an inventor, Klaus (Louis Hynes) is fond of books and facts, and Sunny (Presley Smith) is a baby who likes to bite things. After their parents perish in a fire, banker Arthur Poe (K. Todd Freeman) is tasked to take care of their family fortune, and sends the Baudelaires to live with the strange Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris). Olaf forces them to do chores and cook food for his theater troupe. The children soon discover Olaf’s plot to steal their fortune, and the lengths and disguises he will use to do so.
“The stove is a bit like a servant. You need to whack it a few times to get it to work.”
A Series of Unfortunate Events is clearly made for fans of Lemony Snicket’s (Daniel Handler) book series. The show uses many of the same storytelling devices. Namely narration, as when Snicket (Patrick Warburton) directly addresses the audience. The storytelling and dialogue are blunt, logical and straight-forward. It’s a book lover’s wet dream to have a faithful re-telling, but this could turn off general audiences as many of these elements work better on paper than on screen. Snicket and other characters constantly explain ‘what words mean’. It’s a great gag in the novel, but on screen, it’s an odd and repetitive break from the plot. The blunt dialogue can also seem emotionless and awkward.
This obviously isn’t the first time A Series of Unfortunate Events has been adapted for the screen, and it’s hard to ignore the similarities. Now, the Netflix series is more faithful than the film, but they definitely borrow some ideas. Malina Weissman and Louis Hynes look almost identical to Emily Browning and Liam Aiken as Violet and Klaus Baudelaire. I’d like to say Jim Carrey is a better Count Olaf, but he makes the film’s tone comedic instead of solemn. The Netflix series does the tone and plot better, but the film’s scenery looks livelier. The main differences though is that the Netflix is setting up future seasons by revealing pieces of the secret organization, something unexplored until the last few novels.
“Follow me, but mind the rug. You might slip and break your necks.”
One of the interesting aspects of A Series of Unfortunate Events is the different guardians the Baudelaires finds themselves in the care of. Thankfully, Netflix chose such memorable actors to play these side characters, to the point that they’re better than the lead actors. Aasif Mandvi is excellent as Uncle Monty, the eccentric herpetologist with genuine concern for the Baudelaires. Alfre Woodard is crazy but amazing as Aunt Josephine. Her character is in stark contrast to the corrupt politician, Black Mariah, she plays in Luke Cage. Ultimately, Patrick Warburton is outstanding as Lemony Snicket. His deep, monotone narration fits the series’ tone excellently. Thank you, Netflix, and your brilliant casting directors.
Overall, if you’ve read A Series of Unfortunate Events you need to watch the Netflix series. It’s one of the most ardent adaptations of a novel I have ever seen. Still, these faithful aspects could seem odd to general audiences. The writing is faithful, and the guest actors are more memorable than the main actors. Just watch A Series of Unfortunate Events, okay?
My Rating: 8.5/10