A Series of Unfortunate Events: An Adaptation that was not Unfortunate
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Recently Netflix released its adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, a book series by Daniel Handler (who goes by the pseudonym Lemony Snicket), on its streaming service. For those who haven’t read the 13 book series, its premise is that 3 children named Violet, Claus, and Sunny Baudelaire are orphaned when their mansion and parents perish in a fire and are sent to live with various guardians (until the 8th book). Their (uhh…) uncle, Count Olaf, is an aspiring actor and all-around terrible guy who attempts to steal their massive fortune through murder, trickery, and convoluted legal loopholes. The 3 orphans use their talents (Violet is a mechanical whiz, Claus is a bookworm, and Sunny has sharp teeth) to outsmart their Uncle and reveal his schemes to the authorities, all the while learning what happened to their parents and the secrets they held.
The adaptation sticks close to the source material in its story, with a few extra scenes and characters added in to enhance the plot line. The muted color palette immediately sets the macabre tone the books aim for, and the humor throughout the story is dark, but not in a depressing way. Patrick Warburton is a great Lemony Snicket, occasionally appearing to narrate a scene or clear up something for the reader, and insisting to the audience that they should stop watching before it gets even worse. This mirrors how he appeared in the books and is a much better representation than in 2004 movie. While the acting of the children can fall flat at times, it is more than made up for by the stellar thespian of Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf and of the multitude of minor characters, such as the guardians of the children or the neighborly Justice Strauss.
The series delves into the deeper story much earlier than the books, but this is a very good thing, as it draws in the viewer and makes the escalation in later books easier to portray. The creators also added a major twist (that I will not give a spoiler here but believe me, it was REALLY good) that was not in the books, but kept the tone dark just as the story was getting a bit stale. Even though it can be dark, this series is aimed at the entire family (well, those above 7 or 8), and it does justice to this audience. It treats kids with respect, and knows that they can understand the darker themes and more complex story in a way many other family-friendly shows do not (I’m looking at you, Teen Titans Go). Overall, it was a great experience and I cannot wait for Season 2!