Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
PLOT: A young man (Asa Butterfield) discovers a world of peculiars, children with extraordinary abilities that are watched over by a woman, Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), who protects them from the minions of an evil scientist (Samuel L. Jackson).
REVIEW: After taking a break from fantasy to tackle his down-to-earth passion project, BIG EYES, director Tim Burton is back playing on a large fantasy canvas, with MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN being an adaptation of the popular YA book by Ransom Riggs, and scripted by regular Matthew Vaughn collaborator, Jane Goldman. While better than average for a teen fantasy on the merits of the cast alone, the movie cant help but feel a bit like a throwback to those wanna-be franchise builders that came along in the wake of Harry Potter, like THE GOLDEN COMPASS, CITY OF EMBERS, ERAGON and others.
Burton and Goldman pack a lot of mythology into the two hour running time, introducing us to a world where peculiars, who seem to be mostly children here, live in a time loop set over one day in 1943, where theyre looked after by Eva Greens caretaker, part of a rare breed of Peculiars that can transform into birds and bend time. Hmm and eternity with Eva Green? Doesnt sound too bad, eh?
Asa Butterfield plays a modern teen whose grandpa, played by Terrence Stamp, was a peculiar who left the loop to fight the Nazis in WW2, never returning. Having grown up idolizing the old man and largely ignored by his lazy father (Chris ODowd whos never been more unappealing) once grandpa is murdered Butterfield makes his way to Wales where he finds the loop and discovers he possesses a rare gift where he can see a race of monsters that hunt the children. He also falls for one of the older peculiars, Ella Purnells Emma, whos so light she wears lead boots to keep her from floating away.
One thing thats surprising is how for a kids film MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN is peculiarly dark, with the very Burton-esque monsters feasting on the eyes of children. In fact, theres a scene of baddie Samuel L. Jackson (having a whale of a time chewing the scenery with his fright wig and white eyes) gobbling down a whole bowl of childrens eyes which is probably nightmare fodder for kids. I guess thats what landed this a PG-13 rating, although this darkness does give the movie some edge thats missing from other young adult adaptations. Butterfield is an appealing hero but the movie belongs to Green, who camps it up big time as Miss Peregrine, freely chewing the scenery and you cant take your eyes off her. In fact, the movie suffers horribly in the last act, where Green in temporarily written out as its her star quality that makes this worth watching.
Otherwise, the movie is a mixed bag. The production design is nice although the 3D, at least on the version I saw, was mediocre at best. Writer Jane Goldmans certainly got a way with dialogue, which comes across here, but Burton seems a little bored by this, with it lacking any real sense of energy. Another big problem theres no score by Danny Elfman which is a real shame as his scores are a vital part of the Tim Burton experience. The music here is fine, but not especially memorable, and one techno-scored action scene felt horribly out of place.
Even still, the movie is worth watching for Eva Green alone, who Burton really knows how to showcase. The movie is ho-hum at times, but when shes on-screen its dynamic. This is definitely lesser Burton, but its proficiently put together with enough dabs of inspiration to make it passable entertainment on a lazy afternoon.
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