Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

(USA, Germany, 2017)

I am a huge fan of the thirteen books, whose actual author is Daniel Handler. The movie was not awful, but really could not convey a tenth of the verbal magic in the text. But now we have this Netflix original, and we binge-streamed it in two nights, and it’s wonderful! Handler is a producer, and wrote several of the scripts, so I assume that the changes we see (and there are some) were approved or even made by him. It is a series of eight one-hour shows, and it covers the first four books. It has been renewed for at least a second season, to deal with the next four, and it almost certain to finish it all up the year after that.

This production does everything right. Though I thought Jim Carrey was pretty good as the evil Count Olaf, Neil Patrick Harris is much, much better. The main thing missing from the movie was, of course, Lemony Snicket himself, warning the reader to put the book aside because what’s about to happen is just too awful. (Could there possibly be a better way to keep a child reading?) Here he narrates and appears in person to give us background on his obsessive and determined unearthing of the sad history of the Baudelaire family: Violet, Klaus, and infant Sunny.

The look of the thing is fabulously great, as is the casting and writing. One of the most frustrating (and hilarious) things about the stories is how horribly stupid all the adults are. The children instantly recognize Count Olaf in all his myriad disguises, and the adults never do. They are dense as plutonium. Olaf is dumb, too, but marginally more clever than the “good” people. The kids must always think and act for themselves, as they will never get the least help from even the most well-intentioned of the grown-ups. I can’t say enough good things about this production, and I will be eagerly awaiting the next installments! Believe me, if you don’t have Netflix, it is worth subscribing just for this show!