Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)
Like HBO, Showtime, AMC, FreeForm and etc, there is a certain expectation which comes from announced projects. On top of that, when a project is an adaption, much less a book adaption then, on top of that, a property that has been previously adopted, the expectations builds and builds to the point it seems like it would collapse from the pressure. Well, arguably A Series of Unfortunate Events does just that.
Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) | Violet (Malina Weissman) | Klaus (Louis Hynes) | Sunny (Presley Smith – Sounds by Tara Strong) | Mr. Poe (K. Todd Freeman) | Judge Strauss (Joan Cusack)
A fire. A quick fire, nothing left but maybe one trinket and now suddenly three children, Violet (Age 14), Klaus (12) and Sunny are now orphans. Rich, but nonetheless orphans. But this is but the beginning of a series of unfortunate events. For be it living with Mr. Poe for a night and dealing with his insensitive wife and children, meeting Judge Strauss and thinking things maybe better than they appear, only to learn she is but the neighbor to their guardian, Count Olaf, or realizing Count Olaf has no business being around children, much less being a performer, it seems things will go from bad to worse. Maybe with a flicker of hope, every now and then, but flickers usually signal something is dying more than anything and it seems to be the perfect way to represent the Baudelaire children’s happiness.
Things To Note | Question(s) Left Unanswered
Chapter by Chapter review of the book this and the 2nd episode is based on.
Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.
— “The Bad Beginning – Part 1.” A Series of Unfortunate Events – Originally by Marcel Proust
A lot of It Seems Straight from the Book – Dialog Wise
Though I can’t cite the exact points and times, for those who have read the book recently, you will notice that some of the dialog is pulled straight from the lines of the book. Making it seem that this series aims to be a more faithful adaptation than perhaps the movie version with Jim Carrey was.
There Is a Musical Number
It is established Count Olaf is a performer but god it felt like torture having to hear the musical number in the episode. Bad enough the theme song was annoying as hearing the Orange is the New Black theme song when you are several episodes in, but to have to deal with a musical number? Much less with the usual Neil Patrick Harris theatricality? Urgh.
It Has The Production Value of a Disney Channel Mini-Series
From the CGI to the way scenes look, this doesn’t look like a Netflix production. Considering the money they put into many of their live action shows, such as The Get Down or even the shows they showcase through licensing, such as 3%, the fact this show looks so plain, dull, and with a modest budget, I must admit I was quite surprised.
It Maintains The Book’s Need To Explain What Any Middle School And Above Word Means
I’ve only read up to “The Wide Window” when it comes to the books, and one of the reasons I stopped was because I felt like I was reading a book, one of the edutainment ilk, which was so much about improving my vocabulary that it never wanted to allow me to get lost in this world. The show seemingly won’t be different. It uses that old “Kids are dumb, adults are smart, even though they don’t do smart things” type of scheme. Making it when there is a condescending moment where every adult seems to want to explain what words, at my age, I can’t fathom two teenagers not knowing, it makes you just shake your head. Making it where if you can get over the production values, can learn to appreciate the campiness, and even the fact the young actors are still very green, there is still this vibe that between the breaks to explain words and the downtrodden nature of this show, you have to question “Who is this marketed towards?”
On The Fence
It’s So Campy
I can’t say whether I have a real enjoyment of campy productions. I love the Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Adams Family (the first two movies anyway) and even Hairspray, but a production being so bad it is good is a tricky tightrope. With this program, the issue ranges from not only your expectations from the book but then Neil Patrick Harris having to deal with Jim Carrey playing the role first. There is no comparison to be made for NPH isn’t on the same comedic level as Carrey since Carrey has a stand-up background and is a character actor. Meanwhile, NPH brings his theater background to Count Olaf and his experience being a comedic actor. With that, you get more campiness out of NPH and a Disney type of villain.
Though it doesn’t necessarily end there. Mr. Poe and Judge Strauss also have actors giving polarizing performances. For while the book itself seems geared toward being campy, after all, it tells you this isn’t a happy story and if you are looking for one don’t read it. Yet, Mr. Poe’s family, especially his wife, makes jokes in bad taste which will either make you laugh or think the writing/actor is trying too hard. With Judge Strauss, we are kind of reminded of the awkwardness Joan Cusack has learned to perfect over the years, but with her usually in films dealing with adult situations, it seems like she is adapting, as we watch, her usual persona to fit the expectations of this role.
Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)
I should probably note I’m not a Neil Patrick Harris fan. To me, he is a showman and I find him to be a ham for attention both as himself and with whatever character he is playing. Something which perhaps makes him perfect for this series. However, there is no one balancing him out which is the problem. The kids maybe touted as smart and cunning, but they don’t have the on screen presence Emily Browning and Liam Aiken. On top of that, the only draw I can fathom is if you haven’t read the books but what to know what happens, this series seemingly maybe the best thing for you. Though, despite planning to marathon all the episodes, honestly, I’ve come to the decision I love myself too much to do that.