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A Series of Unfortunate Events and Pasta Puttanesca

The author’s screenplay or the author’s «script-doctored» screenplay? Which version of A Series of Unfortunate Events is the better is a subjective opinion, but if you want my view (and why wouldn’t you), here are the propers…

Count Olaf vs Count Olaf

That is, Jim Carrey vs Neil Patrick Harris, both of whom I approve of. If I had to make a choice, I’d go with Carrey who does a better Count Olaf (the cruelty seems rather sincere1) though each Count Olaf-in-disguise ranks about the same. Carrey’s portrayals are possibly vaguely funnier—particularly Captain Sham—but one can’t deny Harris’s inspired take on Stephano.

Lemony Snicket vs Lemony Snicket

There’s no contest here. I always found Patrick Warburton to be a one-note (albeit funny and likable) actor, but here he adds some unexpected depth. His Snicket mirrors Rod Serling (of Twilight Zone fame) in a very becoming manner and mixes deadpan humor with convincing dread. Not that I have any issues with Jude Law, but Warburton gives the Netflix show a surprising pinch of class.

Set design

Even today, the movie’s budget would be considered exuberant, so from a technical perspective, it takes this one home. However! It’s obvious that the series creator, Barry Sonnenfeld, had gotten far enough along with the movie (he left because of «creative differences») to have influenced the basic look, and thus the two feel very, very similar. The show has also taken their budgetary constraints as an opportunity to make the sets look more theater-prop-like, which goes well with A Series of Unfortunate Events’s theme. In that sense, I actually prefer the Netflix version.

Flow

A two-hour movie covering three books versus an eight-hour show covering four? Netflix clearly has an advantage here. However, I am impressed that they managed to put the movie together without the storyline ever feeling rushed. (Plus Meryl Streep doing comedy for twenty minutes? Always a treat.)

Which means…

… that they’re both good, the show and the movie. I actually don’t know which one I prefer, as, in the end, they’re pretty dang similar. Where Netflix pulls ahead is the flow. There is more time for plot details, and Harris is left with a lot of room to ham it up. In that sense, even though I prefer Carrey, I actually think Harris might have a leg up (no pun intended2) after all.

Just watch both. You’ll surely be left with ten or so hours of solid entertainment. Read the books, too—I’ve admittedly only checked out a few, but they are excellent. And do pair all of them with…

Pasta puttanesca!

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 3/4 cup chopped basil

Toss all the ingredients, minus the spaghetti, together and cook the sauce. Boil the pasta, drain it, and mix it in with the sauce. That’s it.

And what exactly is a «puttanesca»? A «prostitute». There you go. A Series of Unfortunate Events has a little bit for everyone.

1 The man doesn’t believe in vaccines after all.

2 Referencing Captain Sham, natch.

Trailer