Written By Jacob Chimilar (Letterboxd: Sweetlows)
Its been almost 15 years since the film starring Jim Carrey was released and it for many die hard fans felt like it wasn't as good as the books. I haven't read them to compare but I found the movie to be a fun time and a worthy watch. It condensed the first 3 books in 2 hours. This series aims to do around 90 minutes per book over 2 episodes. I for one found that going though the same books over a longer time span didn't really do much in the way of enriching the story but it did stew in the world more and that was fun I suppose. The previously un-adapted story was the most engaging for me as it was a completely fresh experience, as such it allowed the whole production to shine and tell a story unknown to me. Everything else just felt like something I had already seen before just a bit more dialed down on the crazy scale for the Count and more of a dry humored fairy tale.
Fans of the books will most likely enjoy this adaptation because it does spend more time in the various places but I feel doesn't achieve any real additional worthwhile information in the main plot other than some more clues as to the secret society and the parents which was a nice tease throughout. Speaking of story elements I felt like this series went around in circles going from house to house with Count Olaf breaking out a new scheme. While each scheme is fun it does not make for great binge watching. Watching them as two-parter every week or every few days, you can dive in better I think.
The cast is fabulous, Neil Patrick Harris a great Count Olaf but fans of How I Met Your Mother may find his, disguising sort of familiar, while still fun, does kinda make me go "Oh Barney". The children are excellent as a melancholy trio of heroes and the rest of the supporting cast are great in their roles but many of them play the same role as the stupid adult who doesn't understand what Count Olaf is up to. The narrator of Lemony Snicket adds a different dimension to the story but only on rare instances does he truly add something. You know when he comes up he is going to say something about how dark and horrible it all is and breaks the fourth wall frequently, that got old fast when watched one after the other.
It has a feeling of a long form slightly twisted fairy tale like Pushing Daises. The production design is fantastic, with movie quality cinematography and a lovely, if invariable, score, in what must have been a very expensive show for Netflix. That is one thing Netflix hasn't shied away from, money appears to be no object for most of their projects and they seemed to have spent it wisely here.
Whacky, weird, gorgeous but kind of empty of emotion and repetitive. The fairy tale aspect adds a lot and the episodes zip along at a good pace with kinetic, par for the genre, cinematography. It would make for a nice "family movie night" for each two-parter. It has some good themes, like perseverance and reward for intellect and team work. In the end however the children always manage to be right back in their place looking for a way out of a horrible situation around clueless adults. If the movie didn't do it for you, this won't change your mind. The treadmill cycle of the show, which makes sense as books, exploring whacky singular adventures, just doesn't work here as a serialized show and overall comes up short.