The kids are Violet (Malina Weissman), 14; Klaus (Louis Hynes), and their baby sister Sunny, whose babbling is amusingly subtitled. (As an aside, whoever was responsible for casting the baby should be awarded an honorary Emmy right now.)
Admittedly, this is a fairly slim construct, and the episodes don’t quite sustain the initial burst of energy, as the children endure one attempt after another by Count Olaf — aided by his peculiar henchmen and a variety of disguises — to either do them in or compel them to sign over their inheritance.
Overall, though, the show proves a good deal of fun, and Harris dives into his over-the-top character with considerable gusto. It’s also something that parents ought to be able to watch with their older kids — enjoying the clever wordplay, like an argument over when to say “literally” versus “figuratively” — which qualifies as a fairly rare occurrence in the realm of premium cable and streaming.
Given that the movie did reasonably well but failed to transform the books into a cinematic franchise, credit Netflix with seeing its potential in this eight-episode format. Because the series of events that led to this new version turns out to have been fortunate, indeed.
“A Series of Unfortunate Events” premieres January 13 on Netflix.