Netflix Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Adapted from the book series of the same name; A Series of Unfortunate Events, chronicles the lives of the Baudelaire children over the course of thirteen books – all under the narration a Lemony Snicket. The Netflix adaptation has divided each book into two parts, this first series tackling the first four books. Here I will just be reviewing the first two episodes/first book: The Bad Beginning.

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Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are left orphaned when they are told (in a lesson than sympathetic manner) that their parents have been killed in a fire. A fire that also unforgivingly destroyed their entire home. With nothing more than the clothes on their backs and each other, the Baudelaire’s are left to the care of their closest living relative – Count Olaf.

A narcissistic, manipulative and just plain icky man, Count Olaf in the most literal (and unconfirmed) sense of the word happens to be the children’s closest living “relative”. However, it’s clear from their initial meeting that he is after the vast Baudelaire fortune and will do anything to get his hands on it.

Luckily for you it has been so long since I read the books that I can’t be one of those “The Book Was Better” types (however that doesn’t stop it from being true). The books were written from the point of view of the author, telling us about the lives of the Baudelaire’s through his research, and I think what this adaptation does well, is breathe life into this concept by providing us with Lemony Snicket: The Narrator. An omnipresent being, simultaneously existing outside of this story and wholly within his own.

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Patrick Warburton has an amazing voice that perfectly suits the role he is playing. However I did find that there were times where it seemed as if the story would have flowed better if the narrator took a step back. His frequent appearances almost causing a separation between past and present, and adding an impatience as I kept pondering: Okay but where are the Baudelaire’s now? Instead of enjoying the story.

The detestable Count Olaf was played by the multi-talented Neil Patrick Harris… and in all honesty I think he was the biggest casting mistake (I guess he does warn us to look away in the intro). It could also be to do with the script; but the over the top depiction of Count Olaf, theatrically and costume wise made him a man marching to the beat of his own drum. He was out of place and in fact a little annoying. Toning down the characterisation of Count Olaf would have given him a more sinister air instead of making him a villain out of a Pantomime – never to be feared or taken seriously.

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The colour palette had the overexposed, over sweetened air of Pushing Daisies, which worked well set against all the doom and gloom. And though I personally found the humour clever and fun, it could just as easily not translate to the next person which is something that needs to be addressed, leading me to my final point: Who is A Series of Unfortunate Events targeted towards? It seemed a tad too grown up for children, too childish for teens, and not adult enough for those above. Though it has already been picked up for a second series (chronicling books 5-9) now that the initial hype has died down, I wonder how well it will actually be received.

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