Now that the third and final series has been released on Netflix, it seems like an appropriate time to review A Series of Unfortunate Events. Having grown up with the series I have always wanted a show/film to live up to the standard that the books set. The 2004 film did not live up to these expectations, partly due to my own dislike for Jim Carrey and his constant confusion between comedy, and just pulling faces at the camera. Although I realise that Count Olaf is a very theatrical character, I think that Jim Carrey’s performance was just plain annoying.
When I heard that Netflix was set to release a TV adaptation of the books I was skeptical but excited. I had always been hoping for a series of films, but with the 2004 film being a commercial disappointment, a TV show seemed better than nothing.
I went into the series with low expectations, just hoping to enjoy it more than the film. Luckily, I enjoyed it much more than the film, and more than any other TV show Netflix has ever produced. This will be less of a review and more of me just gushing about how much I truly loved this show.
Opening with a monologue from Patrick Warburton’s excellent Lemony Snicket, he tells the audience that they should stop watching now, as the mysterious and terrible story is far too unpleasant for viewers to see. I insist that you ignore this warning.
The show manages to capture the magic of the books wonderfully, mainly through the writing. It employs much of the same humour and wit as the books. One thing that surprised me is that they managed to reflect the love of language that is so prevalent in the books, this may seem like an odd and insignificant thing, but the constant language jokes and Klaus’s love of libraries really help bring some positivity and simplicity to what is an incredibly dark story.
With Jim Carrey’s take on Count Olaf being my least favourite thing about the film, I was nervous about how Neil Patrick Harris would take on the role. Although his performance is relatively similar to that of Jim Carrey, I absolutely love how he played the character. He puts so much love and heart into the performance, to the point where you start to sympathise with him. He takes Count Olaf’s theatrical nature and plays it to perfection and he doesn’t make stupid faces every 30 seconds. What a bonus!
Now obviously I can’t talk about A Series of Unfortunate Events without mentioning the Baudelaire’s. Violet is played by Malina Weissman, Klaus by Louis Hynes and little Sunny is played by Presley Smith. All three children play their roles stunningly. From the offset, Malina and Louis fall into their character’s perfectly, showing such heartbreak, whilst keeping the humour and optimism that the show is all about. They are definitely ones to watch.
Each book is split into 2 episodes, essentially, one feature-length film per book. This length works very well as it gives the audience enough time to immerse themselves into each story and to really feel connected to the characters. It also helps it keep its storybook structure as each story has its own mood and atmosphere, just like the books. The story unravels in such a satisfying way, having the surface story of the Baudelaire’s escape from Count Olaf happen at the same time as the slow reveal of their family’s past. It creates a depth to the world, gives the Baudelaire’s a purpose that is bigger than just them.
The books really mean a lot to me, they were the first proper books that were ever read to me as a child. Although the stories were dark and at some points were quite scary for 6-year-old me, I loved the books for their humour and the characters. Although, saying that I did often worry about my house burning down in a mysterious fire. The series lives up to the books and for me, that is the biggest compliment I could give.
Words: Alex Thomson