Monday, January 16, 2017

A Series of Unfortunate Events - A Bad Beginning

Based on the series of children's books of the same name, Netflix's new series centers around the misfortunes of the Baudelaire children whose parents apparently die in the fire that destroys their home. The first two episodes of the series adapt the first novel in which Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes), and baby Sunny are sent to live Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), an actor of questionable repute who uses chicanery to become the guardian of the children in hopes of getting his hands on the Baudelaire fortune. The dire nature of the children's circumstances is balanced by the humor of Harris as the over-the-top villain and the narration of Patrick Warburton detailing past accounts as Lemony Snicket.

A Series of Unfortunate Events makes use of the common conceit that children know far more about what is happening than adults. Even Olaf, who manages to trick and swindle his way into almost getting what he wants, is something of an imbecile. And other adults seem oblivious to both his machinations and how ill-fit such a man would be as the guardian of three children. Even his neighbor, Justice Strauss (Joan Cusack), is taken advantage of by Olaf by nearly helping him steal the fortune in an attempt to marry Violet during a (rather awful) play in such a way that would be legally binding.

Although Olaf is stymied through Violet's quick thinking, and Klaus' research, the unfortunate series of events for the Baudelaire children has only yet begun. They may have escaped Olaf's clutches (for now), but that's not to say the next stop on their journey will be any better (especially if Lemony Snicket is to be believed). And I'll be curious to see how long we'll have to wait to see more of the children's missing parents (Will Arnett and Cobie Smulders) who are quite alive, but held captive against their will.

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