The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

Filed under Arts, Reviews

Series return is fortunate event

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Netflix is gaining ground in its steady lumber toward media domination with the release of its adaptation of the hit children’s saga, “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

The show follows the story of three orphans as they tumble through a series of guardians, evade a dastardly villain, and try to discover the truth about their parents’ deaths.

Like any successful adaptation, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” reinterprets the source material under the fresh gaze of the camera, elevating some aspects to new heights, though still falling awkwardly flat at times.

The show’s main villain demonstrates the range of quality the series is capable of serving up. Neil Patrick Harris stars as Neil-Patrick-Harris-In-A-Wig, or Count Olaf, in a performance that flip-flops between cringe-worthy and comedy gold throughout the series.

Harris, because of his work in television and on the stage, is just too recognizable.  

Just hearing him is a dead giveaway — a fact I discovered when his disembodied voice started crooning the show’s theme song.

However, Harris doesn’t just play Count Olaf. He plays Count Olaf playing a whole gang of other ridiculous characters, and this is where the fun starts.

Taking on clownish mannerisms and exaggerated accents, Harris banishes any question of why Barney Stinson, his character on “How I Met Your Mother,” wants to steal these children.

However, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” doesn’t rise or fall Harris’ back. The star-studded supporting cast is the real heart of the show, offering excellent performances from Joan Cusak, Aasif Mandvi, Alfre Woodard and Patrick Warburton.

The show’s greatest asset is the vocal narrator, Lemony Snicket (Warburton).

Snicket, constantly interrupts scenes to provide commentary, creating a smart and funny visual presence on screen equal to that of the character’s role in the book series.

Snicket isn’t the only impressive modification from the book. The show contorts the plot of the book series, incorporating spoilers it took several novels to reveal.

While the books went for more of a slow burn, the show creates intrigue by unveiling the puppet strings controlling the characters.

Add the dazzling sets that match the absurdity of the plot, and “A Series of Unfortunate Events” has a little bit of something for everyone; both witty and slapstick humor, an unfolding mystery, and Harris’s singing, perfect for those who just finished “Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog” and need a fix.

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The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883
Series return is fortunate event