<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Tim Burton. Starring Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Ella Purnell, Chris O’Dowd, Kim Dickens, Terence Stamp, Samuel L. Jackson, Rupert Everett, Allison Janney, Judi Dench
Running Time: 2 hours 7 minutes
With every Tim Burton film comes a glimmer of hope that the weird-and-wonderful director of films like Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas will bewitch us once again. Alas, not this time.
I think perhaps it is the need to appease what studios now think the audience wants. Big CGI-laden events that mimic the popularity of franchises like Harry Potter and the Marvel superhero films. Surely young-adult fiction has run its course as is apparent from the not-to-soon demise of franchises like the Divergent films.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children reminds you of the X-Men films and Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. All the kids in the mystical home are ‘gifted’ much like the X-Men. There’s a little girl who has the strength of 10 men, a young girl who is as light as air, another girl who can set things on fire, a boy who can bring inanimate (and dead) things to life by inserting living hearts into them and a girl who can move things with her mind. There are others as well but the problem is we never really get to know them really well apart from their peculiarities.
So wait… there’s a young boy called Jake (Asa Butterfield) whose grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp) brought him up believing in this world of peculiar people. Then one day Abe is found dead with his eyes eaten out. And Jake must find this mysterious place on the other side of a Welsh town. And of course he does, meeting the titular Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) who has created a ‘Loop’ that keeps her and the children in a state of repeating the same day over and over again so they don’t end up being bombed by the enemy. Abe used to help them but then went off and now Jake must help them relive the day and defeat Barron (Samuel L. Jackson) an evil man out to find eternal life by harnessing the power of magical birds.
Sigh… I haven’t even gotten half of the happenings of this film down yet. And I don’t want to. There’s just too much happening and too many plot lines with very little backstory into the characters and no heart in the protagonist or his love story, if that’s what you can even call it. The girl (Ella Purnell) liked Abe and now she falls for his grandson!
Perhaps the fact that this film is based on a novel by Ransom Riggs explains why there’s so much to cram into it. They’ve even taken some plot from another novel of his in the series. The final act in the movie is so far removed from the rest of it that I all but gave up on trying to understand what the whole point of it was. The CGI overpowers the characters and by the end even young Jake’s attempts to reach his beloved through different loops is just glossed over in a 30 second summary, which makes it hard to even believe he has any feelings for her at all.
Eva Green’s Miss Peregrine is the only character that comes out of it all as being memorable and unique. But alas she disappears from the plot before the finale. Samuel L. Jackson’s presence provides some comic relief but very little else.
Tim Burton’s dark and disturbing touch can be felt at places like the stop motion animation fight between the two ‘dolls’, which doesn’t really look like it fits into the rest of the CGI. But something about it all just isn’t him. That twisted mind, that downright disturbing tone, those scary visuals – all the things that would have made this a truly peculiar film – are all missing.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children lacks the heart of even an X-Men film. That being said, it’s not a bad watch, just a very longwinded one.