Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017)
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring: Neil Patrick Harris and Patrick Warburton
How I Watched: Netflix
Review by: Holly Hill
Looks like we can finally wipe the 2004 A Series of Unfortunate Events movie from our minds. Netflix has revived the book series by Lemony Snicket, and Daniel Handler (the real Lemony Snicket) has written eight beautiful episodes for the series, giving it the whimsical outlandish adaptation it deserves.
The first season has eight episodes that cover the first four books of the thirteen book series. This allows for an hour and a half to be dedicated to each book, with a Part One and a Part Two. For anyone who has read the books, you will appreciate that the creators have been able to capture the absurdity of the situations the Baudelaire orphans are put in.
Let’s start with the opening credits. “Look away, Look Away”, is the song that greets us as we go through a map of all the unfortunate events that are about to take place. It echoes what Lemony is always telling the reader in the book: unless you want to feel miserable, stop reading. The song is performed by Neil Patrick Harris (more on him later), and each new episode has a more detailed version of what fate awaits the orphans each episode. Simply put, it’s brilliant.
Onto the sets and costumes. The entire thing felt like I’d walked into a Wes Anderson film. The sets were gorgeous. The entire look of the series also has an Addams Family feel as well, which is appropriate seeing as the director for the 1991 film also directs five of the episodes. The sets are so fully realized, it’s hard to not be impressed. Uncle Monty’s gardens, Count Olaf’s decrepit home, and even Briny Beach where the story really begins. No detail is too small.
The acting. Neil. Patrick. Harris. Is there anything he can’t do? I love that we get to see a different character from him every single episode. He’s trying to be Count Olaf, but he’s also Stephano. He’s a sailor, but he’s trying to kill the children. No matter what it is, NPH pulls it off. No surprises there. The musical number in the first episode had me dying. The children are all casted wonderfully and I have no major complaints, even though Sunny’s CGI actions kind of creep me out. Olaf’s theatre troupe is everything a book reader could ask for, and Mr. Poe is obviously the best worst character.
Throughout the books, Lemony Snicket will stop the reader to explain that he is very serious, this will not be a happy ending. Or he will explain a phrase that most kids don’t understand, or a word. Have they cut this from the show? Absolutely not. Lemony Snicket acts as the viewer’s narrator, and he is played by Patrick Warburton.
There are also a plethora of subtle nods to the books while adding in some new fun plot lines as well. Count Olaf saying, “Except I can’t seem to find the sugar bowl.” I mean, come on. Will Arnett and Cobie Smulders are playing [what we assume to be] the Baudelaire’s parents, and it looks like they will be up to some pretty interesting things in the series trying to reconnect with their children.
In the end, what makes people want to watch more A Series of Unfortunate Events? Well, all of the above mentioned things are a start, but I think what really has people coming back is that the show is just like the books. It is the purest adaptation I’ve seen quiet possibly ever.
While waiting for Season Two, remember that if you need help, don’t call the regular fire department, check the sugar bowl, and look for clues in acrostic poems. I am looking forward to learning more about VFD, the fate of the parents, The Quagmire Triplets, Esme Squalor and Carmelita Spats. If you feel like you can’t wait for Season Two, I’d go back and do a frame by frame rewatch of the series. There are clues EVERYWHERE.