Thursday, February 9, 2017

TV Show Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events

The terrible story of the troubled Baudelaire children takes another shot at adapting the popular children's book, now as a streaming television show. The story is narrated by Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton), the purported author of the tragic tale. The three Baudelaire children Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Lois Hynes), and Sunny (played by Presley Smith and voiced by Tara Strong) discover that their parents died in a fire. The lawyer Mr. Poe (K. Todd Freeman) informs the children and sends them to live with their closest, by location, relative the villainous Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris).

The 8 episodes of season 1 follow the four books from the Bad Beginning to the Miserable Mill. Count Olaf conspires to steal the Baudelaire inheritance as he takes the children into his awful house and forces them to do chores. For some sense of power over their new awful situation, the children turn to their neighbor Justice Strauss (Joan Cusack), who is yet another clueless adult. The series of unfortunate events lead them to other guardians like Uncle Monty (Aasif Mandvi) and Aunt Josephine (Alfre Woodard) traveling from the reptile room to the wide-windowed beach house to the miserable mill.

The show constantly reminds us that this story is unhappy and miserable, warning us in the opening credit scene to look away. Count Olaf is assisted by his theatrical clue including the hook-handed man (Usman Ally), the twin (Joyce and Jacqueline Robbins) and another henchperson (Matty Cardarople). The crew is incompetent and is easily outsmarted by the hyper-intelligent children who are able to invent and read and bite their way out of trouble. The parents (Will Arnett and Colbie Smulders) hope to make it back to their children, but there is an interesting twist in the finale. 

The Netflix version is able to space out the story and tell more of the tale. Neil Patrick Harris carries most of the episodes though it lags at point watching his gimmick of customs and strange accents. The humor is hit or miss at times, but there are plenty of funny jokes to keep it going despite the misery of the story. The outrageousness is fully embraced with dark sets and interesting costumes. 

I have not had the chance to read the books, something that I would like to remedy in the near future. I'm glad this silly story has had another chance to hit the screens and Netflix is a great place for it with the budget and unlimited time to make episodes as long as the story needs. I would recommend giving this version a chance if viewers enjoyed the movie, but can't say for book readers. I looked forward to another season to add more to the story and answer the questions of the mystery. 

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