Last week the wife and I decided to take in the latest iteration of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix. Having never read Daniel Handler's original book series myself and only watching Jim Carrey's 2004 film, I was curious to see what the differences would be between the two lead actors. With Neil Patrick Harris and Jim Carrey delivering some of my favourite moments and catchphrases this was certainly going to be interesting.
The movie version of A Series of Unfortunate Events was very enjoyable to someone who had never read the books, RottenTomatoes seems to back this up with an overall score of 72% making this a relatively fresh film.
I had to actually double check those numbers as I was trying to work out why exactly an expanded version of this was green-lit. Why would they make the same thing again only 13 years later. Then I realised that it's actually a WHOLE 13 years later and the shift from short impactful storytelling to long-form, serialised works has been picking up pace over the past decade. Luckily this new version is worth the expansion.
I suppose now would be an appropriate time for a spoiler warning, as I have a great deal of difficulty holding back information when I want to gush about something. So if you've not watched either version or read the books yet I highly recommend doing so and not clicking any further...
While the main beats of the series and the film are the same, the TV series really benefits from digging into those details and storylines that were glossed over, omitted or only hinted at in the film. As such you find that Count Olaf, Klaus, Violet, Sunny and to some degree Mr. Poe are more fleshed out, human and likeable characters.
Let's start with Count Olaf; the main antagonist to the Baudelaire children and "master" of disguise.
Neil Patrick Harris (NPH) really shines throughout the series initially living up to Jim Carrey's depiction of the count and then surpassing him as he took on the various disguises throughout the series, with a personal favourite being his turn as Shirley St. Ives. Count Olaf's misplaced sense of self-importance, narcissism and ego is a hugely enjoyable cornerstone of what makes NPH so compelling to watch as he goes through his schemes and costume changes.
Klaus, Violet and Sunny Baudelaire (respectively played by Louis Hynes, Malina Weissmann with Sunny portrayed by Presley Smith and Tara Strong) will be referred to collectively as The Baudelaires as Count Olaf chooses to do so throughout the series. The Baudelaires go through some REALLY unfortunate events throughout the series with opportunities for each of them to use their specialised skills such as "book reading", "building stuff" and "super strong chewing" in almost every episode. This way their defining characteristics help them through the various situations and develop the bonds and dependence the children have for each other. A great turn from all the child actors involved.
Mr. Poe was less likeable and realistic as a human character than his aforementioned colleagues no doubt due to the actual characterisation rather than the portrayal by K. Todd Freeman. How one person could be so interminably stupid, mule-headed and good-hearted as Mr. Poe I have no idea, but he did help to justify how the children kept winding up in such unfortunate circumstances.
I almost forgot to write a short essay of love for Patrick Warburton here, luckily I decided to scan through before posting! Patrick stars as Lemony Snicket, showing another major difference between the film and TV series as Jude Law's portrayal of Mr. Snicket was in voice only. Patrick appears in every episode of the series, guiding us through the events and helping to explain and add commentary to the situations. This is a phenomenal use the the fourth wall break and I commend the show runners for this decision.
Each of the episodes are well fleshed out without dragging on. The storylines are interesting but quite similar, luckily the overarching storyline does carry the viewer from episode to episode without feeling too much repetition.
My favourite thing about this show has to be the downright miserable nature of it. There's no hiding that Lemony Snicket is correct from the adverts and the announcement at the beginning of each episode, as the events are most definitely unpleasant for the children. And the show embraces it, so far as to build up hope for *SPOILER ALERT* The Baudelaire parents having survived the fire only to find out in the closing episode that it was an entirely separate family the parents belonged to. I will remind you now that I did warn you about the spoilers so please don't complain. This was an excellent, bold and brave direction that the Producers and Showrunners stuck to throughout the show helping to build up hope only to remind you that this is indeed a Series of Unfortunate Events.
So all in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride that this show took me on and I relish the potential of a follow-up Series of Unfortunate Events. But I won't be keeping my fingers crossed as withholding that would be the last, subtle act of wretchedness to The Baudelaires that the show runners could make...