Dear Reader of this Review,
I would strongly encourage you not to read this review. If you at some point in the past were ignorant enough to read the thirteen books and/or watch the 2004 Nickelodeon movie version of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, then you're already familiar with your aching sympathy for the three Baudelaire children as they lose their parents in a terrible fire, are pursued by carnivorous leaches, sleep in a shack with territorial crabs, nearly get burned at the stake (literally), and find themselves pretending to be a double-headed "freak" at a carnival. If you have not yet put yourself through the misery of following the Baudelaires through their unfortunate lives full of sadness, terror, and woe, please find a different review of something more happy and lighthearted to watch. Because I'm sorry to say, as Lemony Snicket states in the series, "there's no happy endings not here and not now."
This tale with no happy endings begins with the three Baudelaire children, Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes), and Sunny (Presley Smith) riding in a streetcar to Briny Beach. The three siblings lived in an enourmous mansion where Violet, the oldest, loved to invent things. Klaus, the middle child, was an avid reader. And Sunny, the youngest, always loved nothing more than to bite things. Only hard things that she could really sink her teeth into, however.
After arriving at Briny Beach, the children test out an invention of Violet's that retrieves rocks from the water that she had skipped. But before long, the children spot Mr. Poe (K. Todd Freeman), their parents' banker, approaching them from across the beach, coughing into his hankerchief as always. He had come to inform them that their parents had perished in a terrible fire that destroyed their entire mansion. Perished, a word which here means died.
The character Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton) serves as an aside in this Netflix series who is attempting to retrace and research the Baudelaire's woeful steps through their unfortunate lives in an effort to better understand the reason for them.
Mr. Poe and his wife (Cleo King) temporarily took the Beadelaire children into their home following the fire. The children were given one bed for the three of them, and were welcome to make themselves at home there, only on the condition that they "didn't touch anything."
Before long, the three Baudelaires were sent to live with their "closest" living relative. And their "closest" living relative turned out to be a really bad actor from a strange theatre troupe.
Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) lived in a creepy, run-down looking house. Upon first meeting, the children noticed a tattoo of an eye on his ankle that, from that point forward, would follow them wherever they went and haunt their worst nightmares.
Count Olaf gave the children one tiny room in his sorry-excuse for a house, and ony one bed for all three of them. Similar to what the Poes had given them, but much more shabby to the point to where it sagged when they sat down on it. On top of that, Count Olaf gave them a long list of dreadful chores to do, from cleaning the toilets with toothbrushes, to chopping wood that he would never use, to preparing a meal for himself and his theatre troupe.
Violet, Klaus, and Sunny knew from the moment they first laid their eyes upon Count Olaf that he was a very wicked person. And it didn't take them long to figure out that he was after the enormous Baudelaire fortune that Violet would inherit when she turned eighteen. With the help of a book on nuptial law from Justice Strauss's library, they found out just how he planned to go about getting it. But what they didn't yet know was that Count Olaf would literally perform a great number of schemes down the road; thus causing a series of unfortunate events.
Thirteen years prior to the release of the A Series of Unfortunate Events Netflix Series, a movie version came to theaters that the new series would be compared to. And while I can say that I really enjoyed both, there are some specific aspects of each that I feel were better than those of the other.
The overall feel of the Netflix series was much more child-like and comical than the movie. This mood difference seemed to work well for the series, however I preferred the darker mood and phenomenal soundtrack by Thomas Newman from the movie that seemed more "real" and "lifelike."
Speaking of real and lifelike, the settings for the Netflix series were much more cartoon-like than the movie. I liked the slightly gloomy color of the settings from the Netflix series, but you could clearly tell they were places you would only see onscreen, not in reality. One instance of this would be the snake-shaped hedge maze on Uncle Monty (Aasif Mandvi)'s front lawn.
When it comes to characterization, I feel that the majority was very well-done in the Netflix series. However, there was one instance that I'm not sure whether I liked or disliked. In the Netflix series, Mr. Poe was about as ignorant and clueless as it gets. At the end of Episode 3: Part 2, he turned his back on Count Olaf and his associates after (finally!) discovering that he really had been pretending to be Captain Sham, and was surprised to see that they had made a run for it when he turned back around. Mr. Poe in the movie always fell for Count Olaf's schemes as well, but did not miss what was happening right below his nose. I like the fact that Mr. Poe in the Netflix series was more true to the books in that manner, but his extreme level of ignorance was eye-rolling rather than funny. He was also constantly coughing in the Netflix series, which is true to the books as well, but it was really annoying to watch onscreen. However, the audience is supposed to grow to dislike Mr. Poe, so his unrealistic persona in the Netflix series may have been rather effective by those means.
Overall, I enjoyed the Netflix series for its staying true to the books, and the movie for its darker, more real mood, action and settings. I give it three-out-of-five stars, but I still forewarn you that if you still feel like curling up on the couch tonight and binge-watching the episodes that, as Lemony Snicket will tell you as you crunch on your popcorn, "there are no happy endings not here and not now. This tale is all sorrows and woes. You dream that justice and peace win the day. But that's not how the story goes."