WARNING: The following review contains spoilers, I’m telling you now so you don’t pretend to be outraged later.
It’s been a pretty rough go of things for Tim Burton recently. Many of his films the last few years were torn apart by critics but to be fair, all of those movies featured Johnny Depp. If there is one couple we wish would break up and never get back together, it’s Depp and Burton. Fortunately, Depp has nothing to do with this movie, so there is a chance of success, no matter how slim it actually is. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is not only a completely difficult title to say and pronounce but it is also based on the 2011 book under the same title. Once Fox brought the rights to the film, they brought in Burton to direct and ONLY direct because they know better. Love or hate his films, the one thing no one can take away from him is that his movie is visual marvels. The only question left is, will everything else be up to par.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Say that three times fast) begins with a teenager named Jake played by Asa Butterfield (otherwise known as the kid who dun goofed himself outta playing Spiderman). Jake discovers that his grandfather was killed and had his eyes removed at his home in Florida. Jake has assumed that his grandpa’s stories about a special group of kids in Wales had all been a crazy tale. However, his grandpa’s murder makes him look into the legend more closely. So he and his father travel there to discover if he was truly crazy or if there really is more to the story.
For anyone unaware what is means to be a ‘Peculiar Child’, just think of the X-Men for an even younger audience. The Professor X in this universe is Miss Alma LeFay Peregrine (Eva Green) who sole job is to protect the kids at all costs. Every child has their own special abilities such as creating fire, super strength and invisibility. Jake discovers that the kids live in a loop of the past. They are stuck in 1942 where during the Nazi invasion of World War II, a bomb was dropped on their house and destroying it. Miss Peregrine keeps restarting the loop because if they don’t, their bodies will catch up to real-time and they will age rapidly. As the story progresses, you start to feel bad for the children because they are really stuck in their own personal purgatory. Forced to relive the same day over and over or they will die. If you think this angle is too dark for kids, keep in mind who the director is.
The first hour is a very good story of a boy stuck between two timelines but suddenly it’s like the film reminds itself “Hey! we need to have a conflict in this movie”. Samuel L Jackson plays Mr. Barron, the leader of a group of Wights that kills peculiars and eats their eyes to gain immortality. The villains feel shoehorned in for the sake of conflict and to give an excuse for Jake’s powers. Jake has the power to see the Wights when they are in their invisible monster stage, the same powers his grandpa had as well. This gives him a leg up in the fight to defeat the bad elements once and for all. Mr. Barron’s plan is to kidnap Miss Peregrine and use her to recreate the failed experience that turned them all into monsters in the first place and it’s up to the children to stop them.
The third act feels like your typical superhero battle when it’s time to save Miss Peregrine from the bad baddies. The kids discover another time loop that will send them to the correct timeline to save her. Mr. Barron isn’t a very menacing villain; in fact, he seems more annoyed but our heroes than threatened but him. Especially considering the fact that Jake gains access to Miss Peregrine crossbow but has an aim so bad even a Stormtrooper would find him unfit to serve. The kids defeat Barron after his own attempt at sabotage fails and they return to their rightful time. With the loop gone, the kids will now age normally but this doesn’t stop Jake who is only about 16 years old from traveling around the planet to find his girlfriend stuck in 1942 for a happy ending. The End.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children has a great build up but loses the plot halfway in. The story actually started to drag once Samuel L Jackson officially entered the film. Tim Burton, for all intents and purposes, is pretty restrained in this movie. You don’t have the outstanding visuals that we’re entitled to see in his films. There are about two really good set pieces, but it feels like a lackluster effort from what we’re used to seeing creatively from him. Eva Green does a great job in her performance as a hard-nosed Mary Poppins (probably too late to recast Emily Blunt). Green is arguably the only person who gives an authentic performance. The young leads of Asa Butterfield and Ella Purnell are serviceable but they don’t leave anything memorable. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a solid effort but is ultimately dragged down by its lack of narrative.
OFFICIAL RATING: ***
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