Under Review: “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

The Netflix original series stars Neil Patrick Harris as villain Count Olaf.

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The Netflix original series stars Neil Patrick Harris as villain Count Olaf.

Irene Vazquez, Editor-in-Chief

When I first heard that A Series of Unfortunate Events was getting the Netflix original series treatment, I couldn’t believe my ears. Finally, a chance to avenge the 2004 movie version that had done the books such disgrace. I waited in eager anticipation for one of my favorite childhood series to make its Netflix premiere.

The series chronicles the Baudelaire orphans, 14-year old Violet (Malina Weissman), 12-year old Klaus (Louis Hynes), and their infant sister Sunny (Presley Smith). As they navigate the world after the death of their parents, Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) tries to steal the children’s fortune.

Stylistically, the direction reminds me a great deal of Wes Anderson, if Anderson were slightly more macabre and used more grey tones in his work. The style speaks to the way the series so expertly interweaves language with dark themes through a children’s viewpoint.

Patrick Warburton (the voice of Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove) plays Lemony Snicket, the narrator of the series. Warburton’s voice is perfect for the role — his tone nails the dry wit that made the written series so great. The show revolves around Warburton’s narrative voice, and he holds the system together so well. Seriously, I want Lemony Snicket to narrate my life.

The rest of the casting for the show was flawless. It was refreshing to see actors who are the actual age of the children they play. I’ve seen enough 20-something’s playing high school students to last a lifetime. The Baudelaire orphans are plucky, but not overly naive, and they are characters to root for.

The truly interesting acting comes from the various guardians who take care of the Baudelaires. With just the right balance between his mysteriousness and caring attitude, Aasif Mandvi delivers a great performance as herpetologist Montgomery Montgomery. Joan Cusack and Alfre Woodard also make guest appearances. The show’s high level of diversity should be the standard bearer for TV series to come. None of the roles were coded as any particular race in the original series, but the show runners cast the right actors for the job.

When the series was first announced, I had my doubts about Neil Patrick Harris’ ability to play the villain — he just seems like too nice of a guy. But with Harris’ training and superb costuming, he dives into the role headfirst. That being said, Harris does steal the show from time to time, and in future seasons I hope to see more of the focus shift back to the children.

More than anything, the writing is what makes A Series of Unfortunate Events shine. The show is witty and quick and captures the voice of the series that marked my childhood.