The Sun'll Come Out, Tomorrow

Orphans! They're just like us! Well, except for the fact that they're completely different. The psychological scars of the typical nuclear family are wholly different than the ones inflicted on the parent-less, which means that orphans sure do make for good storytelling. So much so that by happenstance, I just watched two wildly different titles that revolve around orphans and how they begin to rebuild a sense of family.

The first was the inaugural season of the Netflix adaptation of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I really liked all the books, but the original movie was not particularly great. It was inoffensive enough, but the only thing that really stood out were the end credits. That didn't prevent me from getting my hopes up when this new version rolled around, for a few reasons:

Neil Patrick Harris was attached as Count Olaf, which is terrific casting. Daniel Handler (that is, Lemony Snicket himself) was in charge of the writing. Barry Sonnenfeld, who gave us such gorgeous visuals in Pushing Daisies was giving this show a similar look. That, plus the fact that putting this property on TV gave it move time and space to breathe than a single movie, had me anticipating this show more than any other.

Was it worth the attention? Affirmative, a word which here means "of course it was". All of the points I just mentioned paid off in spades, and there were so many more. The show really captures the tone of the books, and the producers are obviously having grand fun with casting the guest stars, from Joan Cusack as Justice Strauss to Alfre Woodard as Aunt Josephine. Neil Patrick Harris is able to walk the fine line between making Olaf a farcical figure of fun and an actual menace. His troupe of ne'er-do-well henchmen are just on the right side of goofy. Patrick Warburton is perfect as the melancholy, stone-faced narrator. And the Baudelaire orphans themselves? They're fine, if not that noteworthy. The children may be determined, but they're fairly reactive characters, so I don't blame the actors if they're somewhat placid; they're the sad calm in the midst of a hurricane of wacky adults.

Each book gets two episodes, so it's basically one movie per book, with the season covering the first four. Despite the horrors the Baudelaires are forced to endure, it was a joyous viewing experience, and I'm already looking forward to the next installment.

Up next was an orphan of a different stripe. It's that moody caped crusader, Batman himself. And although he's as grim and dour as ever, his surroundings are pretty bright and cheery. That's right, it's The LEGO Batman Movie. And speaking of casts that are stacked with talent, just check out this one. Everyone loaned their voice to this movie!

It's incredible how many different rights the producers of the LEGO movies have to lock down, but they somehow manage. Though Batman (Will Arnett) is the nominal star, there are appearances from characters from all sorts of other realms, from Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter. Batman is used to working alone, but between the Joker's new evil plan, a forceful Barbara Gorden as police commissioner, and an eager sidekick trying to get adopted, he has to learn to rely on others.

The story arc is fairly straightforward, but given that this is a LEGO movie, it's really more about the rapid-fire jokes and references. They all landed well, giving me a lot of good chuckles. The movie isn't as clever or inventive as the original one, but it was still a lot of fun, and kids will love it.

A Series of Unfortunate Events - Season 1: A-
The LEGO Batman Movie: B


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