Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
3/10/2016 | Jake Richardson
Breaking away from traditional muses Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children is a middling entry into the Burton collection.
Jacob is a disenchanted Floridian teenager who, after his grandfather dies, finds clues to a mystery that leads him to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As he learns about the residents and their special powers, Jacob finds himself caught in a dangerous battle in this mysterious world.
Asa Butterfield has always been a spectacular young actor, with his early performance’s in The Boy In The Striped Pyjama’s and Hugo both great examples of his talent. While he is good in this too, he is let down by a script riddled with clichés, trying for a whimsical world-building that it never quite achieves.
A large part of the cast is made up by children, and in some cases this create a tapestry of leaden performances. The romance between Butterfield’s, Jacob and Ella Purnell’s, Emma Bloom feels particularly contrived. Even some of the older cast fail to strike a chord. Terence Stamp’s death scene is one to rival Marion Cotillard’s in The Dark Knight Rises, and you’ll catch yourself wondering what Samuel L. Jackson did so wrong that he had to appear in this. His villain is remarkably without menace; a failing particularly obvious when compared to his villainous turn in Kingsman: The Secret Service.
The inner workings of this world are barely touched on, which means that the story’s time-travel elements make absolutely no sense. In a 2-hour movie, world-building shouldn’t take so long and be so poorly explained. Furthermore, the CGI skeletons at the end are remarkably unrealistic, and are characteristic of much of the problem with this films plot – that there are no stakes. It never feels like any of the characters are in any real danger. There are no real twists or surprises. Frankly, we’ve seen it all before.
That’s not to say there is nothing of value in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Chris O’Dowd revels in playing the worst parent to ever grace the Earth, and the stop-motion battle between two recently re-animated monstrosities by one of the children is a joy to watch, making you long for Burton to return to the medium. Most of all, Miss Peregrine makes its presence felt, and proves its worth, with its title character. Eva Green is born to play a Tim Burton muse. Recently, it has felt a lot like his actors are playing to these quirky elements he infuses in his characters – they are struggling to reach the strangeness required. There is no such issue with Eva Green’s Miss Peregrine. She struts into every scene and steals it immediately. There is no need to work to suspend your disbelief when she whips out a pocket watch as she chews on the end of a giant pipe. Eva Green is perfect in this film, and it makes you wish she had (a) more screen time and (b) better material.
Green, and to a lesser extent Butterfield and O’Dowd, shine in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Tim Burton has flashes of his former brilliance too. But for the most part, the film will have you longing for better material for these great creatives to work with.