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“A Series of Unfortunate Events” is based on the 13-book long series of the same name. (Courtesy of Netflix)
How many versions of the same storyline is too many?
“A Series of Unfortunate Events” is based off of the books by Lemony Snicket, the pen name of author Daniel Handler. Back in 2004, a movie also based on the books was created with a very similar style and tone, which begs the question: is this Netflix original series even necessary?
While the movie only covers the first three books, this season of the show covers the first four books and subsequent seasons will supposedly deal with the remaining nine books.
The series stays true to the dark tone of the novels, with Lemony Snicket himself (Patrick Warburton) playing the narrator and explaining just how melancholy and tragic the story is and that the viewer should be warned there is no happy ending.
Snicket continues to appear during various parts of each episode to provide commentary on the situation that is unfolding. Warburton does an excellent job of portraying this somber, yet experienced and omniscient character; one that is able to provide the viewer with an idea of what is to come.
Despite the moments of relief from Snicket, the episodes feel entirely too long. Each book accounts for two episodes split into parts one and two. At times, it feels as though the story of each book could be told in one episode, but the length does allow the viewer to better understand the characters.
The Baudelaire children, Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes) and their baby sister Sunny (Presley Smith), find themselves orphaned after their parents supposedly die in a house fire. The story revolves around their lives after they are placed into the care of Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), who is only after the Baudelaire family fortune.
The trouble for Count Olaf is that the fortune can only be inherited when Violet “comes of age” at age 18, which is not for many years. This leads Olaf to his attempts to work around the system.
Neil Patrick Harris’ portrayal of Olaf is one of the best aspects of the series. Olaf himself is an actor and as he tries to get the children back on multiple occasions, he assumes various costumes and voices, which Harris depicts wonderfully. Other well-known actors make small appearances, including Colbie Smulders and Will Arnett as the children’s parents.
Joan Cusack portrays Justice Strauss, Count Olaf’s neighbor, who cares about Violet and Klaus and despite wanting to help them, ends up unintentionally hindering their plans. Aasif Mandvi shines as Montgomery Montgomery (yes, that is his real name), another guardian of the children who also shows a deep affection for them.
Overall, the fantasy imagery paired with the distinct style choices for each house contribute nicely to the uniqueness of the storyline. It brings some joy to an otherwise depressing plot.
Each book finds the children staying with a different guardian, and the color and tone of each household perfectly match each respective person with whom the Baudelaire’s are staying.
Although a new series might seem a bit unnecessary, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” is put together very well and the acting is superb. One major downside is that the episodes feel superfluously long, but perhaps that is just to accurately convey all parts of the books.
There are plans for more seasons, which will provide a fresh take on the remaining books in a way that has not been visually created before.