Outcast children with unique traits? Ransom Rigg’s novel “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” has all the hallmarks of Tim Burton film, so you can imagine how excited I was to hear that Tim Burton was handling this adaptation. While Burton’s been a little inconsistent over the last few years, he’s back in form with “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” follows the tale of Jake (Asa Butterfield), a seemingly ordinary boy, who sets out to understand the strangeness of his grandfather’s death and reconcile his future with the story of his grandfather’s past. This quest takes him to dreary island in search of the orphanage and the woman who cared for his grandfather during the Holocaust. But when Jake finds the orphanage, he learns his grandfather’s supposed fairytales are more real than he could ever imagine and the peculiar children his grandfather knew in his youth are still there and in dire need of help. Yes, the same children appearing to be the same physical age. Jake also learns he’s not as ordinary as he thinks, but is it enough to save his friends and the amazing Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) who cares for them?
The premise of this movie sounds a lot like X-men meets Doctor Who — a special place for kids with powers and a time travel twist. But watching the movie and the youthful excitement displayed with each new discovery made this feel more like a Narnia tale. The powers displayed by the kids are weird and dark — one girl can fly, but her power curses her so that she would float away if she wasn’t tied to ground. Another kid has the dark ability to bring back the dead, but in doing so he’s really bringing back a puppet-like version. This kid’s power lends itself well to Burton’s film interests and a scene with this power taken too far is the perfect encapsulation of why Burton is a great fit for this project.
The relatively unknown youth cast in this film all have fun in their roles and have some with the idea of ‘old souls’ in youthful bodies. But the real standout cast are the veteran adult actors who are masters of scenery chewing. Eva Green plays the titular Miss Peregrine and is a delight to watch her sharp looks and defined movements designed to mimic her characters bird transformation powers. Samuel L Jackson plays the villainous Barron and has some pretty hammy lines, but exudes such energy and fun — you can tell he was probably a favorite for the child actors to hang out with that the sarcasm of his lines and evil plots can’t help but draw you in and make you smile.
Aided by an outstanding cast, Burton’s latest film honors its source material while still providing its own twists and enhancements. Underlined by an eerie, but beautiful score and instagram-worthy scene set ups, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is odd, creepy, beautiful and engaging. While some book fans might be shocked by some of the changes at first, as the film progresses, you can see how they improve some elements for cinematic quality. For example, book fans will be quick to point out that Emma (Ella Purnell) had the fire starting power in the book and Olive (Lauren McCrostie) had the floating power, but the film opted to switch these two. If it had served no purpose other than Burton thought it was cool to swap them, I would have been frustrated by this book change, but the power swap makes sense and actually gives both characters more to do while enhancing the plot. And while the ending is nothing like the book’s cliffhanger, fans that can balance both endings will love the satisfaction of this film wrapping up its loose ends and being able to standalone. Burton doesn’t seem to make a money grabbing attempt to force a sequel to this movie (which in an era of ‘2-part movie splits for a single book’ is a relief).
‘Miss Peregrine’s’ is a fun romp (and make sure you check out the book too). This is great for the whole family, but keep in mind that there are some dark themes not suited for particularly small children.