Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Starring Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Ella Purnell, Chris O'Dowd, Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Allison Janney
Although it’s an obvious attempt to fill a void left by Harry Potter in the young adult fantasy genre, Tim Burton’s latest Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children doesn’t have the originality many start-up franchises do. Burton’s decision to use more practical tricks than visual effects certainly make the segments in and around the iconic historical mansion unique. The presentation in 3D makes an already dark film even more dim, as it was not captured with 3D camera’s, only converted. Asa Butterfield (Hugo, Ender’s Game) isn’t particularly well cast here in the lead, his lead performance is very surface based, pushing the character from scene to scene, but never developing him beyond a cliché.
Following the mysterious death of his grandfather Abe (Stamp), whom he idolized, Florida teenager Jake (Butterfield) convinces his father (Dowd) to take him to Whales where his grandfather spent time during the war. Abe is convinced, through childhood stories and mad ravings his grandfather told him, there is something to this orphanage where Miss. Peregrine (Green) presides over unusual children. Things are not what they seem when Jake arrives to the small island. What appears to be an abandoned ruin of a house, bombed at the beginning of the war, is anything but. The inhabitants live on a loop, destined to repeat the day before the German plane bombed their home. Jake meets all the children from his grandfather’s story and their specific peculiarity or talent. Jake was meant to meet these people, but what he learns will change his life forever.
Doesn’t have the originality many start-up franchises do.
One of the most interesting aspects of Ransom Riggs novel (which has been altered for the movie adaptation) is the strength of the female roles. Green, Janney, Dench and even the peculiar females are some of the films highlights. The build up to the segments in and around the mysterious house are when Miss Peregrine is at its best. Subsequently the production quality with art and set decorators is top notch. However, once the film moves beyond the house it also moves beyond Burton’s practical effects and into heavy visual effects. Including a ridiculous skeleton battle that serves as the movies real low point. The long running time, with heavy periods of dialogue might prove dull for some younger children, although scenes of villains eating eyeballs will wake them up and give them nightmares.
As with most young children’s novels, Riggs introduces the audience to a host of new elemental words you need to understand for the fantastical elements to make sense. Loops (areas of the world where these special people can live out of sight), hollowgasts (creatures from an experiment gone wrong that eat eyeballs) and Ymbrynes (protectors that can turn into bird and create time loops). With most new series hoping to be franchises (there are three books), much of the time is spent developing characters and the rules of the fantasy. Burton and screenwriter Jane Goldman (Kingsman: Secret Service) do a nice job with the initial setup, it’s when the film turns into an action film that I lost interest. Casting Jackson as the villain (not in the books) and the only person of color in the story is in very bad taste. Interesting that the screenwriters felt it necessary to change the peculiarities of certain characters from the book, but couldn’t find the time to add a bit more diversity.
Despite creativity in the first half, the latest children’s book adaptation doesn’t offer anything new to the genre or Burton’s repertoire.