Thursday, April 20, 2017

Books on Screen

A Series of Unfortunate Events

When The Bad Beginning first came out I was enamored. It wasn't the adventure or the mystery. It was the tone. A Series of Unfortunate events relied on a tongue-in-cheek, self-mocking, intentionally over-wrought tone. My brother and I devoured each volume. When the first movie was announced, I was thrilled. The dramatic, action oriented nature of the plot was well suited to film and the right cast could do justice to it's pseudo-serious nature. When they cast Jim Carrey in the role of Count Olaf, I figured it would perfection. The reality was ... less than perfect. In this case, I think it's a failure of the script, which combined several books and eliminated many of the best elements. It takes itself  too seriously and cuts out most of the quirky narration. The cast does it's very best, of course, but there is little you can do to fix a poor script.
Fast forward a decade to the Netflix miniseries. After the disappointment of the film I wasn't thrilled by the announcement. Even when I found out Neal Patrick Harris was slated to play Count Olaf. This new effort is stronger. While the cast is a bit lackluster at times (particularly the children) it has the same charm of the original novels. Lemony Snicket himself is a more present character. There are new jokes that keep true to the sense of the source material. I don't know that it is as engaging as the book but is worth watching. I've only seen the first two episodes, those based on the first novel, so I can't speak  to the series on the whole but it's a promising beginning.

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