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Netflix’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’: Five Things It Got Right — and Two It Didn’t Quite Nail
For fans of all things unfortunate, Friday the 13th of January was the luckiest day of 2017 — thanks to the grand debut of Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, starring Neil Patrick Harris.
The latest adaptation of Daniel Handler’s beloved books — which tell the story of an ill-fated trio of orphans who stumble into a tangled web of intrigue, espionage and homemade spaghetti — landed on the streaming service with an eight-episode first season. (Jim Carrey and Meryl Streep starred in the 2004 film version, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.)
After digging into the new Netflix take, Us is ready to run down the things that make it super watchable … with a couple of caveats. Here’s what’s great (and not so great) about the latest foray into a kid-lit classic.
Good thing No. 1: It’s extra Lemony
In the original books, titular storyteller Lemony Snicket is a ubiquitous presence, continuously popping up to narrate and explain the happenings on the page — and happily, A Series of Unfortunate Events hews closely to its source material on that front. Not only do we see and hear from Lemony Snicket on the reg, he’s played by the eminently hunky Patrick Warburton, whose basso profundo sets the perfect tone right off the bat.
Good thing No. 2: It looks terrific
The gothic absurdism of A Series of Unfortunate Events just wouldn’t be perfect if it didn’t look right. Fortunately, Netflix appears to have spared no expense when it came to nailing the quirky flavor of the story with spectacular sets, a perfect vintage-washed palette and fantastic costume design.
Good thing No. 3: Neil Patrick Harris
While NPH appears to have bogarted his Count Olaf wig directly from the 2004 Lemony Snicket movie, that’s the only thing recycled about this performance, which is dark and absurd without ever crossing the line into ridiculousness. (No offense, Jim Carrey.)
Good thing No. 4: It delves into the details
At four times the length of the average feature film, A Series of Unfortunate Events can afford to take its time lingering lovingly on its beautifully dressed sets, or drawing out the mystery of the shadowy V.F.D. organization over the course of multiple episodes.
Good thing No. 5: Easter eggs galore
It’s always a challenge for adaptations like this to strike the right balance when it comes to winking at fans, but A Series of Unfortunate Events does it right. If you know the books, you’ll spot the Easter eggs instantly; if you don’t, they won’t register at all.
So what does the show not quite nail? Call us nitpicky, but we’ve got two minor complaints.
Not-so-great thing No. 1: A couple performers who lack experience
Although newcomers Malina Weissman and Louis Hynes look every inch the part in their roles as the elder Baudelaire orphans, their performances include a few too many odd notes and fourth wall-breaking awkward moments. But we have a feeling they’ll be more comfortable onscreen by the time season two rolls around.
Not-so-great thing No. 2: Effects that are less than special
For a show that looks this fantastic in terms of cinematography, sets and costumes, the CGI is surprisingly so-so. Maybe Harris’ hyper-realistic facial prostheses ate up the entire effects budget?
Tell Us: What do you think of A Series of Unfortunate Events?
A Series of Unfortunate Events is currently streaming on Netflix.
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