MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN:
A SATISFYING RETURN TO THE WEIRD WORLD OF TIM BURTON!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
20TH CENTURY FOX
(From left to right) Jake, Miss Peregrine, Millard, and Olive in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Talk about a match made in heaven, when I first heard about Ransom Rigg’s best-selling novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the concept sounded exactly like something straight out of a Tim Burton film. Wouldn’t you know it, it was, director, Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Frankenweenie) continues his legacy of bizarre but very entertaining movies with a film adaptation of Rigg’s book.
The 80s and 90s were Tim Burton’s strongest eras of filmmaking, from quirky comedies like Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, to superhero movies like Batman, as well as dark fantasies like Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. The 2000s were a decent time for Burton, while Big Fish, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street were positively received, Planet of the Apes was debatably his first dud.
The 2010s were very hit or miss, Frankenweenie and Big Eyes were good films but Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows, and Alice Through the Looking Glass were not well reviewed upon release. I was curious to see how Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children would turn out, especially after both the hits and misses in his filmography.
For a Tim Burton movie from the 2010s, the film’s not half bad, is it destined to be a Tim Burton classic? No, but there are things about it that’s pretty unique. How do I describe this movie? Imagine if Tim Burton directed the Harry Potter and X-Men movies, that’s pretty much the film.
I mean that mostly by its premise, we’ve heard this story, a home or school that houses children with special gifts, yep, wizards, mutants, been there done that. But the film shines in imagination, the children’s powers are very creative and many of them are different from the powers of the students from Hogwarts or the mutants at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. I’ve never seen an X-Men movie with a character who has a shark mouth on the back of his/her head…yet.
The film follows a young boy named Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield-The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Hugo, Ender’s Game) who always lived a normal life as an everyday teenager. As he was a child, Jake’s grandfather, Abraham (Terence Stamp-Superman I and II, Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Big Eyes) would always tell him stories about a woman named Miss Peregrine who lived in a mansion in 1942, where she housed children with unique abilities or Peculiarities to keep them safe from monsters out to get them.
After his grandfather is murdered by a monster called a Hollow, he sends Jake on a journey to an island in Wales to discover the truth behind his stories. It turns out his childhood stories are perhaps more real than Jake thought as he meets a girl named Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell-Kick-Ass 2, Maleficent, The Legend of Tarzan), who turns out to be peculiar with the power of air, and the two of them go into a time travel loop and end up in 1942.
Emma takes Jake to the Home for Peculiar Children where he meets Miss Peregrine (Eva Green-Casino Royale, Dark Shadows, 300: Rise of an Empire) herself, who has the power to transform into a bird. She introduces Jake to the other Peculiar Children, such as a girl named Olive (Lauren McCrostie) who possesses pyrokinetic abilities, an invisible boy named Millard (Cameron King), an inhumanly strong child named Bronwyn (Pixie Davies), a pre-teen who can control plants named Fiona (Georgia Pemberton), a boy who can resurrect the dead named Enoch (Finlay MacMillan), another boy who can spit bees from his mouth named Hugh (Milo Parker-Robot Overlords, Mr. Holmes, The Durrells), a girl with an extra mouth in the back of her head named Claire (Raffiella Chapman), a boy with prophetic dreams named Horace (Hayden Keeler-Stone), and the Masked Twins (Joseph and Thomas Odwell).
Miss Peregrine informs Jake that a loop is a repeat of the day and she and the children must turn back the day before a bomb inevitably drops on the house and destroys them all. She also tells them about the Hollows and how they were human-like creatures known as the Wights, led by Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson-Jurassic Park, Pulp Fiction, Marvel Cinematic Universe), that were affected after an experiment went horribly wrong and they turned into these blind monsters with tentacles that prey on the eyes of the peculiar to regain their sight once again.
It’s up to Jake to help Miss Peregrine and the Peculiar Children battle the Wights and save their home before it’s too late.
The film also stars Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, The Sapphires, Thor: The Dark World) as Jakes’ Father, Franklin Portman, Judi Dench (James Bond franchise, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Philomena) as Miss Esmeralda Avocet, Kim Dickens (Hollow Man, Thank You For Smoking, Gone Girl) as Jake’s mother, Rupert Everett (Shakespeare in Love, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Shrek 2 and 3) as an ornithologist, Allison Janney (10 Things I Hate About You, American Beauty, Finding Nemo) as Jake’s psychiatrist, Dr. Golan.
Overall, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a solid addition to Tim Burton’s filmography, even though it’s based on existing material, the visuals, cinematography, and set design feel very Tim Burton, especially the suburban area, reminds me very much of Edward Scissorhands. The film offers good characters, action, drama, comedy, and even some scary moments from time to time, it’s a Tim Burton movie, what more do you need?