Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, K. Todd Freeman, Presley Smith, Joan Cusack, Alfre Woodard, Catherine O’Hara, Rhys Darby, Will Arnet, Cobie Smulders.
Plot: The Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus & Sunny are orphaned and left open to the machinations of their relative, Count Olaf, a terrible actor with an eye on their family fortune. The Baudelaire’s seek to unravel the mystery surrounding what happened to their parents and the secret organisation they were involved with.
Mention Daniel Handler and people will most likely shrug, mention his more commonly known moniker of Lemony Snicket and people will recognise the name for differing reasons. From the series of macabre children’s novels from the late 90’s but most likely from the 2004 Jim Carrey film of the same name which covered the events of the first 3 novels of the 13 novel series. The Netflix Lemony Snicket series intends to bring all the novels to our TV screens and season 1 gets things off to a very strong start. The stories contained in the Lemony Snicket novels certainly benefit from the format of an 8 part episodic season, this first season containing the narrative of the first 4 novels, rather than the strictures of a near 2 hour film trying to cram in as much of that narrative as it can. The stories are allowed to have more context, greater emphasis is allowed to be applied to sub-plots and a much greater degree of character development is allowed to evolve over the course of a season run. Production values on this series are high, the show is gorgeous to look it, nailing the aesthetic of Snickets world, a slightly off kilter Gothic ambience hangs over the proceedings in a world with an ambiguous location & place in time.
The casting for the show is expansive and pretty much spot on. As much as I loved Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Count Olaf, Neil Patrick Harris over the course of this first season makes the character his own, it isn’t him trying to do his best Jim Carrey impression, Harris’s Olaf is much more subdued and nuanced than Carrey’s comparatively one note mugging and is a move that pays off big for the Broadway stalwart, a side he also gets to show off in his performance of the shows brilliantly infectious theme tune. The actors playing the Baudelaire orphans are great, there is no cliched, irritating child acting here, Malina Weissman & Louis Hynes are excellent choices as Violet & Klaus respectively and carry their roles with a deft touch that defys their youth. There is also a scene stealing turn from the impossibility cute Presley Smith as Sunny who never fails to raise a smile when onscreen and is voiced by voice artist extraordinaire Tara Strong, adding the prerequisite coo’s & gurgles. The role of Lemony Snicket is embodied by the ever brilliant Patrick Warburton who’s deadpan delivery of the author is a constant joy to behold as the series goes on, who’d think an in depth explanation of the definitions of literally & figuratively could be so entertaining? The show also boasts a ridiculously varied and talented support cast. Deep breath, Joan Cusack, Alfre Woodard, Will Arnet, Cobie Smulders, Don Johnson, Rhys Darby even Catherine O’Hara who starred in the film makes a return appearance, all giving note perfect performances in their episodes.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events is a joy from start to finish, a darkly comic, richly and impeccably delivered take on its source material giving the Daniel Handler stories wonderfully realised life. There have been 2 more seasons of this show commissioned by Netflix to cover the remaining 9 stories in the series and if they are anything like what has been accomplished in season 1, we are in for a real macabre treat in the years to come.
Season 1 of Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events is currently available to view on Netflix.