First Look: Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events

Neil Patrick Harris is practically unrecognizable in these photos taken in Vancouver, where he’s filming a new version of A Series of Unfortunate Events for Netflix.  Of course, since he’s playing the evil Count Olaf, it’s not surprising that he’s heavily disguised.

For those unfamiliar with A Series of Unfortunate Events, it’s a 13-volume series by Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) that chronicles the sad adventures of the three Baudelaire orphans, and the attempts by their villainous uncle, Count Olaf, to steal their inheritance. Snicket relates the story in pseudo-Victorian prose, frequently advising the reader to stop reading, because things will just get more miserable.

Those warnings were obviously failures, since the books have sold more than 60 million copies.

Although it’s technically a children’s series, the books are loaded with literary references and allusions that will delight adults.  It’s unlikely that many of the children who read the novels will understand why it’s darkly amusing that two of the orphans are named “Klaus” and “Sunny,” or why the orphans’ herpetologist uncle warns them that the dangerous Virginia Wolfsnake must never, never be allowed to get near a typewriter, or why one of the characters is named Esmé Squalor.

Highly recommended, with two caveats:  The first five or so volumes are wonderful, but as the series continued, the books got longer and less interesting.  And the final book doesn’t resolve most of the plot’s mysteries.

A Series of Unfortunate Events is expected to run on Netflix later this year.

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