Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Last Updated on July 31, 2021

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 can’t 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.

miss peregrine's home for peculiar children eva green asa butterfield

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 they’re looked after by Eva Green’s caretaker, part of a rare breed of Peculiars that can transform into birds and bend time. Hmm – and eternity with Eva Green? Doesn’t 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 O’Dowd – who’s 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 Purnell’s Emma, who’s so light she wears lead boots to keep her from floating away.

One thing that’s 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, there’s 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 children’s eyes – which is probably nightmare fodder for kids. I guess that’s what landed this a PG-13 rating, although this darkness does give the movie some edge that’s 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 can’t take your eyes off her. In fact, the movie suffers horribly in the last act, where Green in temporarily written out – as it’s her star quality that makes this worth watching. 

miss peregrine's home for peculiar children asa butterfield ella purnell

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 Goldman’s 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 – there’s 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 she’s on-screen it’s dynamic. This is definitely lesser Burton, but it’s proficiently put together with enough dabs of inspiration to make it passable entertainment on a lazy afternoon.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.