Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Burton’s newest film about odd offspring
By Andrew Linde Multimedia Manager
Tim Burton’s newest film was in, some way, inevitable for him to make. The disturbing found photographs of children that inspired Ransom Riggs’ novel “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” look like they could have been commissioned by the macabre director himself.
The story revolves around Jake, portrayed by Asa Butterfield from “Ender’s Game,” a young boy who experiences a horrific event. Then he goes with his father to a secluded Welsh island. He follows clues from bedtime stories his grandfather told him and finds the titular location. That’s when the fun begins.
The film takes at least 30 minutes to get to the peculiar children and their powers, and I honestly thought I’d been sold the wrong film. All of the advertisements focus on the children who can fly and are super strong, but the film begins in modern day with a fairly normal kid. This felt like a return to Burton’s roots, echoing “Beetlejuice” and “Edward Scissorhands,” with a normal suburban life turned upside down by strange events and characters.
The children of Miss Peregrine’s home each have some ability that is not considered normal, hence why they are called peculiar. Some are a bit useful, like super strength or having their hands on fire, but others doom the children to never have a normal life, like constant floating and invisibility. None of these kids are trained to fight, that’s the specialty Miss Peregrine and other women who can all turn into birds and control time.
Jake finally finds his way to Miss Peregrine, portrayed by Eva Green, in her second Burton adaptation after “Dark Shadows,” and the rest of the cast is a real delight. The children set the mood properly with their interactions and Jake feels like a true outsider among outsiders. Butterfield seems to have trouble with an American accent, which might be the most distracting thing in the film.
The villain of the film is played by Samuel L. Jackson, and he hams it up. He plays a purposefully devilish man who uses his power to track down and kill the Peculiars. Jackson is no stranger to cartoon bad guy (see “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” “The Spirit,” and, hell, even “Unbreakable”) and he is clearly having too much fun in this silly movie.
Despite this not being “What if X-Men were in the past?”, this film has a few really exciting and insane fight scenes. A nearly overly-indulgent fight involving CGI skeletons that harkens back to Ray Harryhausen injects some much-needed stakes raising and laugh-out-loud moments into the film. Another fight shows that the peculiar children aren’t natural fighters, but do well in a pinch.
Burton has been rather hit-and-miss lately, with “Big Eyes” being a true surprise after both “Alice in Wonderland” and “Frankenweenie.” I have long attributed this to his dedication to only making adaptations (his last ORIGINAL film was “Big Fish” and I loved that one). This film is clear proof that given the right material, Burton can take it beyond the source.