MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Screenplay by Jane Goldman, based on the books by Ransom Riggs
Featuring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L Jackson, Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, Allison Janney, Chris O’Dowd, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Fin McMillan, Lauren McCrostie
Jacob is an ordinary boy who loves his grandfather and his tales. As he gets older he starts to realise that perhaps those tales are ‘tall’ and his grandfather is not quite the person he thought he was. When the old man is attacked and killed in a seeming ‘dog-attack’ clues to the world he lived in are left for Jacob to find. Clues that lead to Wales in the UK and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and this leads to great danger…
To be honest before watching this film I knew nothing about it other than Eva Green was in it. I had no knowledge of the source novels so nothing was ruined for me and I did not even know Tim Burton directed. Funnily enough when the end credits rolled, and I saw his name I thought ‘yup it all clicks into place’. The main female let is a dark mysterious woman, usually Helena Bonham-Carter (my wife’s family knew her family) but in this case the rather lovely Eva Green who fits into the HBC shaped hole easily, dark mysterious and a little menacing come easily to this lady.
Like a lot of Burton’s films this is based on children’s literature and like a lot of his interpretations you have to think, is this too dark, a little too scary for the younger audience it is aimed at? Afterall, we have some scary CGI lanky limbed monsters that people turn into that eat eyeballs and you see them eating eyeballs. Hmmmm, how is your 10-year-old’s sleep? Topped with a scary looking Samuel L Jackson hamming it up in full-on scare-mode and I am not 100% sure smaller children and some adults are going to be comfortable viewing this film. Quite often I feel this way about Burton’s films. I mean we know kids like being scared, Dr. Who when I was a kid, but I was not allowed to watch Dracula where people were being killed in full-frontal blood mode.
It is fair to say Burton is uneven in his films and ‘Miss Peregrine’ is in this category. When it is fun and entertaining it is particularly good but when it is scary, drags or gets disjointed it is disappointing. Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children is exactly this.
We are led into the story a little slowly, with Jacob’s mum soon discarded and never seen again and although this can be a little annoying for modern audiences it does make the second half of the film more compelling as we meet up with the peculiar children caught in time-loop during the war. Words that should make most imaginative people sit upright and pay attention. The time loop is fun with everyone in the home stuck knowing what is going to happen at the exact time – so the same phone call, the same squirrel falling out of its nest and the same attack by a monster. Great concept and the ultimate boredom of some of the children are well realised. It is Groundhog Day but without the crescendo of resolution.
Near the end we get into an escape from evil things with tricks and subterfuge, each child character getting a little set piece with their powers – entertaining enough but so far, so familiar. As a grown man with reasonable cognitive-functioning aspects of the time-travelling and loops did get a little confusing but much like the aforementioned Dr. Who it seemed easy to watch, enjoy, and just let it drift.
With some of the effects you can see the budget but in general the overall look and feel of the film is good enough. All the adult actors are equally good enough without being outstanding, Eva Green is the lynch-pin adult and is great in her role although she is used sparingly, Chris O’Dowd seems to slip into any character easily enough but is also used sparingly and seems forgotten by the end of the story. Both Allison Janney, Rupert Everett and Judi Dench are fine actors but they do just seem like high-value window-dressing and Samuel L Jackson seems nowadays to just play the same character, he always has a least two sentences in every film that start ‘Did I not just say….’ regardless of the setting. Put him in a grey fright-wig and fetish doll teeth and he is still Samuel L Jackson from ‘that film we saw last week’, shame as he does have more to offer.
The younger actors fair better with Asa Butterfield and Ella Purnell leading the way. Butterfield is believable as the hum-drum Jacob although he always seems a little ‘awkward’ in scenes, hard to describe but there is something off. Ella Purnell was attractive and well-cast as the love interest but this was sign-posted from a league away and you can help feeling perhaps not having them fall in love would be different at least. All the other child characters have seemingly interesting back stories and powers that seem to have been side-lined or held back to keep the focus on the love-story and peril. Perhaps in further sequels it would be fun to explore origins and motivations? To me this whole premise lends itself to a well-made TV show and not a short format film – again.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is an odd film, entertaining enough I watched it from start to finish without my mind or attention wandering, the acting, in general, was fine and everything was neat and seemed to fit in its place. But something was missing, dare I be so pretentious as to say the ‘soul’ of the story, I cannot really say but something was missing. Once again with so many films that I watch there is a good film in there, but it is stifled.
Overall, not really scary or mysterious enough for older children and adults and perhaps a little too scary for the younger viewers. No age group can understand the time-travelling though.
Neil Patrick Harris, I see your next Netflix project on the horizon sir.