ByGenevieve Van Voorhis, writer at
Game of Thrones, ASOUE, and all things '00s. Twitter: @gen_vanvee Email: [email protected]
Genevieve Van Voorhis

There's just one day left until Lemony Snicket's hits . If you were wondering how the new original series will stack up next to the lackluster 2004 film or the beloved book series, the reviews are in: It's a "yes" from just about everyone.

We've sorted through those reviews and pulled out the best sections to help you know exactly what to look out for as you cuddle up for a quality binge sesh this weekend.

The Show Format Works Like A Charm

'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Netflix]
'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Netflix]

Fans and critics alike agreed that the 2004 movie just didn't do justice to the rich source material of the books, but that's not necessarily the fault of the writers or director. The format of a movie ruled out the possibility of delving into not only the later books in the series but also the Snickety minutiae that made the stories so compelling in the first place. It sounds like these books were tailor made for TV.

According to Jonathon Dornbush at IGN:

Each book is split into two hourlong episodes, functioning almost as mini-movies that fit the Netflix model comfortably well. None of Snicket’s books were particularly dense, but the extra time allows the show to indulge in the tiny details of the world, like character quirks and silly dialogue exchanges, that the 2004 movie adaptation simply didn’t have the time for.

'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Netflix]
'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Netflix]

The Guardian's Charlie Lyne was also in agreement:

Where 2004’s 'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' seemed hell-bent on boxing in the books’ wilder narrative instincts, Netflix’s adaptation expands out in all directions to let the saga’s freak flag fly. Written by Handler himself, the show gleefully exploits the tools of its new televisual trade to amplify the literary playfulness of its source material. And so the mysterious figure of Lemony Snicket, whose oblique narration is the defining characteristic of the books, becomes a physical presence stalking the children through each scene, while his flights of storytelling fancy are spun into some of the most narratively ambitious kids’ TV ever. Offbeat, daring and totally gettable, it’s like a Ladybird Guide To Dialectical Theatre."

There's A Wes Anderson/Tim Burton Vibe

'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Netflix]
'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Netflix]

This isn't the first time we've heard the names of these two cinema greats in reference to Barry Sonnenfeld's series, but now we know the comparison is legit.

Sonia Saraiya from Variety painted this picture about the series' overarching tone:

Tonally, 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' is a weird, wonderful masterpiece — a self-consciously droll gothic dramedy that might be what would happen if Wes Anderson and Tim Burton decided to make a television series about children together.

Tom Eames over at Digital Spy spotted the similarity, too:

It has elements of both Wes Anderson's hipster style and Tim Burton's gothic comedy.

The Guest Cast Is Amazing

'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Netflix]
'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Netflix]

See also:

Meryl Streep who? Just kidding, Meryl Streep is a goddess, and her performance as Aunt Josephine back in 2004 had fans wondering if it was really possible to replace her. But according to the reviewers, not only is the new Aunt Jo (Alfre Woodard) a frightened delight, but the rest of the guest cast has no problem bringing the right amount of energy, enthusiasm and style to Handler's script:

Keith Uhlich from The Hollywood Reporter expounded:

The oddball material also gives the uber-talented guest cast (plum supporting roles are filled by the likes of Catherine O'Hara, Alfre Woodard, Aasif Mandvi, Don Johnson, Rhys Darby and Joan Cusack) the chance to unleash their inner ham. Cusack's Madeline Kahn-channeling flightiness as Baudelaire neighbor Justice Strauss is especially delightful.

Opinion Is Divided On The Child Actors

'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Netflix]
'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Netflix]

When you're working alongside seasoned actors like Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, and the aforementioned guest stars, inexperience is bound to show a little... or a lot. This is the first turn for child actors Malina Weissman (Violet) and Louis Hynes (Klaus), as well as baby Presley Smith (Sunny). Some critics seem enamored with the green youngsters' innocence, while others found their performances too stiff.

Digital Spy thinks they're all that:

Lemony Snicket has pulled off the tricky task of casting three excellent actors as the children. Even the baby is amazing, trust us.

CNet's Luke Lancaster was a little harder to please:

The young leads have the most difficulty playing the farcical, absurdist notes that underpin the show with a straight face, but they're very ably propped up by the adult supporting cast.

There Might Be A Political Message Lurking In There Somewhere

'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Netflix]
'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Netflix]

While the story of the Baudelaires hasn't been altered since it first hit shelves in 1999, Ben Travers from Indiewire couldn't help but notice a particularly timely parallel that could be interpreted as a political message:

Indiewire's Ben Travers had this to say:

"Could children watching at home ask for lessons more suitable, skills more pertinent, or an allegory more fitting for the world facing them in 2017? I think not. With America in upheaval after a contentious and potentially catastrophic election, many citizens see the future as an unwelcoming, frightening place. Stories have been written imploring readers to fight back, now more than ever, but the temptation to distance ourselves from such fears is instinctive. As we’re drawn — daily, it seems — to recede from reality and give in to the self-serving powers that threaten our freedom, we all need a rallying cry; a reminder of what’s right; a role model, hero, or exemplary individual from which to draw courage. And from the doom and gloom threatening to suffocate Lemony Snicket’s imaginary world springs to life a person fit to embolden those of us in the real one — three persons, really.

You're Going To Love Lemony Snicket

'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Netflix]
'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' [Credit: Netflix]

If you were one of the many fans that had reservations about Patrick Warburton as the somber writer/narrator at the helm of the story, let this quell your fears. As spectacular as Neil Patrick Harris always is, it's Warburton who might be the series' secret weapon.

Sonia Saraiya thought so, anyway:

And it’s Warburton, really, who embodies and anchors the show’s narrative spirit, with a kind of straight-faced silliness that communicates both the tragedy and comedy of the series. In one brilliant sequence, he uses dramatic irony to explain dramatic irony with a solemn attention to bizarre detail that is both ludicrous and educational.


How are you going to watch 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' once it's released on Netflix?


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