Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Jane Goldman
Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 2 hr. 7 min
Ranson Riggs’s novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, is most certainly suited for Tim Burton’s story telling sensibilities. It’s loaded with imaginative settings and creatures, and both its suburban starting point in Florida, followed by the rural setting on a remote island off the coast of Wales, most certainly belongs in Mr. Burton’s wheelhouse.
So given that, and the great cast, you’d think this was a no-brainer. Tim Burton doing Tim Burton-y things, surely this is a return to form and a film we can truly cherish. Well, not so much, and it’s the little things that stopped this film entering the Burton hall-of-fame alongside classics such as Beetlejuice and Edwards Scissorhands.
For one, the casting of Chris O’Dowd as Jake’s (Asa butterfield) American father. The character wasn’t especially critical to the plot, so to me, it made no sense to cast such a well-known face, and expect him to deliver a convincing American accent. Which he doesn’t, and it was a constant annoying distraction whenever he was in a scene. Second, the entire first act takes entirely too much screen time. Slowly establishing Jake’s relationship with his Grandfather, Abraham (Terence Stamp), at the expense of getting to the titular content.
This bloated first act results in less time with Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and the Peculiar Children, and Samuel L. Jackson as the film’s antagonist, Barron. Three elements in this story infinitely more interesting than ‘the one yet to discover his gifts’ archetype we’ve seen a million times before. When the second act arrives, the rule/world building phase of the story seems rushed, and the third act finale is really awkwardly paced.
This isn’t classic Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Burton, more like Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Burton. Some scenes with the Hollow creatures might be a little scary for children.
Best Moment: << spoilers!! >>
There’s a truly bizarre battle near the end of the film between Hollows, and a skeleton army, set to thumping dance music. It’s weird, but actually quite entertaining.