Netflix fortunately succeeds with “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

(Netflix)

If you enjoyed reading as a child, you may have picked up “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

The 13 books, about 100 pages each, were written by Daniel Handler under the pen name Lemony Snicket. The length made for easy reads despite the depressing tale of the orphaned Baudelaire children and their fight against a villain set on getting their large fortune by any means necessary.

The Netflix series adaptation succeeds over the 2004 film, and not just because each book has about 98 minutes to delve into the details with accuracy the film completely missed. Handler’s involvement with the script’s writing process shines through.

The casting of Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, the infamous villain and “vastly untalented actor,” seemed like an odd fit when news about the series dropped. But, as soon as he is introduced, it is obvious Harris’ take on the series’ main villain is true to the books.

Harris’ Count Olaf is childish and ridiculous, just as he should be. The fact that only the children can see through his schemes but the adults are blind to his horrible disguises is translated well by the series.

However, at the end of each episode, it is hard to forget that Count Olaf is a madman obsessed with stealing the Baudelaire fortune – coerced marriage, blackmail and premeditated murder just being a few of his schemes.

The introduction of up-and-coming actors Malina Weissman and Louis Hynes as Violet and Klaus Baudelaire may have been risky, but it paid off with a refreshing portrayal of the characters with only a few poorly delivered lines.

The division of two episodes per book is every book lover’s dream. It’s like watching your imagination come to life with how true to the books the episodes stay.

Although this first season has been extremely successful, with a 94-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes from critics, there are moments when it falls a bit flat.

Something that may get a love-hate reaction from fans is Patrick Warburton’s portrayal of Snicket. Instead of acting as an omnipresent voice as in the 2004 film, the author Snicket physically comes into the scenes but the other characters don’t see him or hear his little asides about definitions of words.

This break of the fourth wall is obvious, and it is done successfully most of the time, but there are moments when it’s overdone and Snicket seems, at times, to be a bit too funny and not serious enough.

This seems to be a problem for the adaptation as a whole. The books have moments of dry humor and dramatic irony, but ultimately this is the story of a murderer chasing three children ranging from pre-teen to toddler.

The jokes and doses of light-heartedness help to alleviate the tense plot, but at times it goes too far and for too long.

Additionally, the random injections of musical numbers are entertaining simply because you can hear Harris sing. However, as he sings the opening theme song that changes depending on the episodes, it’s a minute or two that could be better used elsewhere.

As for Mr. Poe, well, just expect a lot of cringe-worthy coughing.

And then, to die-hard fans, be warned that the introduction of Mother and Father and other spy-like characters might throw you off. But trust me on this one, finish the series. It may seem like an unfortunate failure, as the whole plot rests on the Baudelaires’ parents being dead, but see it through.

At the end of the day, the artistry and intense attention to detail can’t be denied. Whether a fan of the books or just interested in a new Netflix show to binge, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” should definitely be the next show in your queue.

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