Some point after reading one of the Harry Potter books I looked around for another great YA book to find and that next series I found was Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events books.  I read the first two books and liked what I read, though I’m not sure why I didn’t continue with the series.

The movie came out a short time later and I thought it was decent.  I thought the children were well cast (Emily Browning turned into a terrific actress – Sucker Punch aside.  Liam Aiken was already a great kid actor.) and Jim Carrey did a pretty good job as Count Olaf.  It really seemed Carrey had a ton of fun with the role and came off pretty fiendish yet idiotic – exactly what the character called for.  The film did well enough but a sequel never came.  I think they just spent way too much on the film’s initial budget.  Guess you need to spend that money to make that next Harry Potter – but it needs to pay off.  Sometimes it’s just better to not make the sequels.  I’m looking at you Divergent series.

Netflix just continues to roll out amazing programming.  Just a couple weeks ago they rolled out a reboot of One Day at a Time!  I’m sure EVERYONE was clamoring for that!!!  But just early last week Netflix released the first season of A Series of Unfortunate Events starring Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf.  With three seasons planned to cover all of the thirteen books published, Netflix is making the move to make the most of the books (while hopefully filming quick enough that the young actors don’t age that quickly.  They tend to do that.).

The first season adapts the first four books of the series.  The basics of the show/books are simple.  Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire become orphans after their very rich parents are burned to death when the family’s mansion burns down.  Bleak.  The kids themselves are pretty tough and lean on each other to get through it (though Sunny is just an infant).  They are smart children and very independent.  When Violet comes of age the children will come into a massive fortune as according to their parents’ will.

Unfortunately a quite evil and horrible actor named Count Olaf is somehow related to the children, somewhere far down the lineage.  What does Count Olaf want?  The fortune, of course.  And when he takes possession of the poor orphans he’ll try to get his hands on the fortune any way he can.  And again.  And again.  And again.  It’s not your average kids show (or series of books).  Things tend to go the kids way at the very end but they usually have a hard time getting there.

So how is the Netflix show?  I think it is…pretty good. It helps that the series was co-developed by Barry Sonnenfeld (the Addams family movies, Men in Black trilogy, Get Shorty…and we’ll try to forget Wild Wild West and Nine Lives).  Sonnenfeld has one hell of a magical touch on this series – especially the episodes he directs personally.  The entire series really looks like it was produced and directed by Wes Anderson.  It feels SO MUCH like a Wes Anderson production.  Very much not a bad thing.  Sonnenfeld directs four of the eight episodes including the first two that introduce the viewer to the Baudelaire world.

The kids in this are okay.  I mean they do a decent job.  Personally I think the kids from the film were much better actors.  But Malina Weissman (as Violet) and Louis Hynes (as Klaus) do a decent enough job.  The children are very nice, smart, and courteous – so I think it is their demeanor that doesn’t allow them to shine.

Sonnenfeld reunites here with Patrick Warburton (they worked together on the very awesome but totally short lived Fox The Tick series).  Warburton is fantastic as narrator/writer Lemony Snicket who is along for the ride helping to tell the viewer about what is going on.  I’m a huge Warburton fan so I’m glad he’s here.  He pops up several times through an episode – though that is not always the best sign for our lead characters.

The series basically succeeds or fails on Count Olaf – the miserable, disgusting, scheming character trying to steal the fortune.  Neil Patrick Harris is inspired casting, but puzzling.  NOW he does an amazing job here.  I’m just so used to seeing him as Doogie Howser or Barney Stinson that this just takes getting used to for some reason.  I get it  – it is an actor’s job to transform into a role.  AND NEIL DOES THIS!  And yet somehow I just expect Count Olaf to yell, ‘Ted, SUIT UP!”  I think it tough to be compared to Jim Carrey as Count Olaf as Carrey was quite amazing in the film version.  I say Neil totally holds his own.

Is the show better than the movie?  Yes.  It is.  There’s just so much expansion to it.  Each book is two episodes.  The movie was made up of the first three books for a total of two hours.  As each book gets nearly two hours the movie just can’t compete.  Daniel Handler, the man who wrote the novels, also works on the series and writes some of the actual scripts.  He does a marvelous job adapting his own work.  I just LOVE THE LOOK of this series.  It looks so much better than the film did.  Once again I’ll say it looks like Wes Anderson did this…and add on the fact that it actually is Barry Sonnenfeld it is just MARVELOUS.

I’ll just say that the casting of the film was better than the show.  But it is what it is.  The actors here still do a great job.

It’s entertaining.  Bleak.  Weird.  Fun.  I can think of worse ways to spend 8 hours.

RANK: B+