Dear readers, please do not read this review. Perhaps you would rather read a take on the latest Oscar nominations or view the latest photo gallery. For this is a review of “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” which premiered on Netflix Jan. 13.
Based upon the book series of the same name, it chronicles the lives of the Baudelaire orphans and when you read their sad tale, you’ll find yourself weeping uncontrollably in whatever classroom, dorm or Uber you are reading this review in.
“A Series of Unfortunate Events” is a series of books first published in 1999. It follows the lives of the Baudelaire orphans after their parents die in a mysterious fire. They move from guardian to guardian as the sinister Count Olaf hunts them for their fortune.
The book series was written Daniel Handler under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket, a character created by Handler. The show adapts the first four books, with two episodes for each book. Handler is executive producer for the show. In addition he wrote five of the eight episodes, which combined quirkiness and dark humor in a way that most children and adults can enjoy. The acting can be uneven at times but fans of the book and newcomers will love watching it.
The series follows the three Baudelaire orphans. Violet (Malina Weissman), the eldest and an inventor. Klaus (Louis Hynes) is the sole boy who is fond of reading and research. Completing the trio is baby Sunny (Presley Smith) who has unusually sharp teeth. Neil Patrick Harris stars as the villainous Count Olaf and each episode is narrated by Lemony Snicket, played by Patrick Warburton.
The books were framed as the culmination of Snicket’s research, giving them a unique voice. The show does capture the books dry humor perfectly in addition to its modern gothic aesthetic. The episodes do a good job of flowing into the next one, making it easy for the viewer to binge the whole season.
The show does have some obviouscomputer-generated imagery, especially in episodes two and three, “The Reptile Room.” The show also adds in elements from later in the book about a conspiracy surrounding the mysterious organization V.F.D. It helps flesh out the world and keeps the story from becoming too episodic.
The show features plenty of fun side characters played by big-name actors. Joan Cusack as the friendly Justice Strauss, Aasif Mandvi as reptile expert Dr. Montgomery Montgomery and Catherine O’Hara as Dr. Georgina Orwell, an authoritative optometrist turned hypnotist.
Warburton seemed like an odd choice to play the melancholy Snicket, but his deadpan delivery surprisingly fits the character.
Harris as Count Olaf is a double-edged sword, a phrase which here means he is hilarious and steals every scene he is in but Neil Patrick Harris stands out. He doesn’t get lost in the role and it kind of takes you out of the story.
Weissman and Hynes’ acting are also pretty rough, as their performances in the first few episodes are wooden. Weissman does grow into her role and by the end of the season she does sound more natural, but Hynes’ acting is flat all the way through.
“A Series of Unfortunate Events” does have some flaws but viewers will find it’s dark humor worth their while.