Movie Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

by Brad Nelson6/19/17
Based upon a book by Ransom Riggs, and directed by Tim Burton, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is yet another X-Men-ish story about how everyone is different and those differences are special…except when they turn us into monsters…in this case, monsters from the mind of Tim Burton.

Asa Butterfield as the protagonist, Jake, is refreshingly lacking in yute stereotypes. Instead of being giddily larger than life or even more morose than life, he seems like a typical teenager who has a modern libtardish father (plenty of time for his bird watching but little for his son). If he’s atypical it’s because he loves his grandfather and is very close to him. But otherwise nothing about him or is life is particularly peculiar.

That is, until Jake’s grandfather is attacked in mysterious circumstances. Then all the bizarre stories that his grandfather told him (which he assumed were fiction) take on a new meaning. Jake convinces his father to let him travel to England to visit the orphanage where his grandfather said many of these incredible stories took place.

Much of the charm of the movie is the unfolding mystery, which in indeed given time to unfold. Although this is a Tim Burton-styled movie, it is free from his excesses, at least until the grand finale which has all the excesses and cliches of a typical movie. But by then, he’s bought himself some indulgence by his previous even-handedness.

Some of the content here is not necessarily suitable for those under 12 which is why it is rated PG-13. This movie is hard-edged enough in places to maintain adult interest but squishy-soft enough for most kids. You can think “Harry Potter” with a bit of Tim Burton’s grotesqueness thrown in.

Of course Jake will hook up with a cadre of “peculiars,” all with special (or just strange) abilities. The headmistress of the group (Miss Peregrine, who can indeed turn into the bird of that name) is played cooly by Eva Green. She represents one of the main problems with the movie. There’s not a lot of depth to many of these characters. But most of the cute oddities of this troupe serve their purpose. And the main depth-of-character comes through the budding relationship between Jake and the cute, curly-haired, lighter-than-air girl (played by Ella Purnell) who must wear heavy lead boots to literally stay grounded. She has a few other hidden peculiarities as well. She is a charmer and tears Jakes between his two worlds.

Judi Dench has a minor role as a co-headmistress of her own band of peculiars. Samuel L. Jackson plays the bad guy in a suitably dull and predictable form. The movie does degenerate to boring stereotypes of dialogue and situations at the end. But given the more “kid” nature of the film, the context is a little different and thus the ruin a bit less. Given the build-up, you’re willing to forgive the cliches a bit more.

This movie has a fairly low 6.7 rating at which typically grants 8.0 or better ratings to today’s abundant garbage-cinema. I liked this movie but I suspect that because it wasn’t bleeding monsters off the edge of the screen from start to finish that the masses, who have grown dull on such things, do not know what to do with quieter moments. Be that as it may, I do recommend this movie for young and old (but not too young). I’m not a huge fan of Tim Burton. I thought Beetlejuice was his masterpiece and Edward Scissorhands was a respectable second. But I find most of his other stuff to be way over-produced or gratuitously weird for the sake of weird (the horrible Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for instance).

In Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Burton has reined in his excesses (for him) and directed a charming adventure that is an island in a storm of vulgar and charmless cimema.

Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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11 Responses to Movie Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I’m familiar with Edward Scissorhands (with Vincent Price portraying a maker of Christmas cookies) and Beetlejuice, and also The Nightmare Before Christmas. I assume Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a remake of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Without Gene Wilder, I doubt it was worth seeing.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Beetlejuice is a good comedy and Burton’s weirdness is done to a tee. This excess of weirdness is appropriate to the story (although no one ever had created just that type of weirdness so it was particularly memorable). And Michael Keaton’s wonderful performance puts some meat on the bones of the weirdness. Without him, it’s like imagining John without Paul. Paul may have written a lot of “granny music,” as John lamented. But John had weird excesses without the restraint of that granny. And without an actor such as Keaton, Beetlejuice would have just been a mess of excess.

      Edward Scissorhands is more of a dark comedy, subtle in some of its humor and situation. I’m surprised this movie was popular because, for the most part, the public has lost the emotional and intellectual acumen to suitably digest good parody. And this is the one Depp/Burton collaboration that I think worked. Dianne Wiest, much like Catherine O’Hara in Beetlejuice, is the quirky mother whose ability to overlook the absurd and make it seem normal makes it all work.

      And I think Gene Wilder is indeed central to the success of Willy Wonka. He was in his prime (which, sadly, didn’t last all that long) and brought to this performance something that it can be said that no one else could.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Has anyone watched the Harry Potteresque Fantastic Beasts?. It’s more J.K. Rowling stuff. Suffice it to say, this looks like an uninspired retread meant to cash in on name familiarity. I gave it a half hour tonight and there is no charm or magic to this beast.

    But it’s probably a perfect movie for the gold-star-for-just-showing-up generation. If you’re entranced by just the look, sound, and lexicon of Harry Potter, and the display of pointless magic is enough, then this is for you.

    The book may be good. Heck, there is over 1-1/2 hours left in this that I’ll never watch. It could get better. But 30 minutes is my limit. And there was zero interest in the film, the plot, or the characters. Even the tricks and magical creatures running around were boring. I’m sure all that is enough to hold an eight-year-old’s interest, but not much more.

    Which leads me to talk about a distinction between true children’s films (as this one is…at best) and films that appeal to children but that work for all ages (Mary Poppins, the first Harry Potter, Willy Wonka, etc.). Some movies appeal to the child in you (or just your funny bone). And some movies are just infantile. This one was of the latter type.

    But I’m sure the Cult of Potter minions just loved it. Still, taking a look at a few of the reviews at, perhaps I am not alone. The title of one negative review says it all: “Absolute Rubbish, no story, no characters, just special effects.” That’s completely consistent with what I saw. Stay away from this one. But do see Miss Peregrine’s Home.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I read all the Harry Potter books, and many about Potter, but none of the books after the original series ended.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I read the first four or five books. They were good for what they were. The only movie that I thought was worth watching was the first one. It was done very well. The others reminded me of the generally poor Star Trek movies. It was another type of “gold star for just showing up” thing. People were just too glad to have anything at all that they overlooked everything.

        Still, I do think a couple of the early Potter movies were okay. But same with the Narnia movies. The first was not just good but spectacular. And then they just had another “give ’em a gold star for just showing up” kind of schlep-’em-out attitude.

  3. Jon Hall says:

    I recently screened this flick on cable, drawn to it by its inclusion of Eva Green, whom I admire, in a sinful sorta way. The Tim Burton flick that works for me is his DARK SHADOWS, also with Green, and two other great gals, Michelle Pfeiffer and Bella,,, Bella, uh, Heathcote (?) or something, Aussie actress, I believe. DARK SHADOWS is very funny, as in the job interview Pfeiffer gives Bella.

    SLEEPY HOLLOW was also good, or, at least, it had its moments. But PEREGRINE may be too “busy” for me. I’ll try and give it a 2nd look, though, given your review.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      IMDB doesn’t rate “Dark Shadows” very highly either. I can see Eva Green being a Tim Burtonesque character. I’m a bit burnt out of Burton/Depp movies. I’m still reeling from their Wonka misadventure.

      Funny that you should say “Peregrine” was too busy. Near the end, yes. But if I liked it at all it’s because it bothered to take some time to build a story. So many others (such as the awful “Fantastic Beasts”) jump write into it without bothering to build any reason to care for anything that is happening on the screen.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s another movie you can avoid. I had no idea I was in for another Asa Butterfield movie. It’s just something I punched up out of Redbox proving once again that you can’t judge a book by its title (or VCR cover art). The contrast between “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” and “The Space Between Us” leaves open the possibility that there is a good Asa Butterfield and a bad Asa Butterfield.

    The bad one (lacking any personality other than gangly teenager) showed up in “The Space Between Us.” I’m not sure if the Bad Asa Butterfield will turn me off of any more of his movies, but I know for sure now that Gary Oldman appears only in Bad Gary Oldman pictures these days.

    I watched the first half hour of “The Space Between Us” and then fast-forward (single fast-forward speed…you could generally tell what was going on) to is if anything was going on. Lots of talk talk talk. Here’s the story and could have easily fit into the entirety of a short trailer:

    Stupid woman head of mission-to-Mars gets pregnant before the mission and has child while on Mars (too costly and embarrassing to scrub the mission). Child can never be revealed because it would hurt the corporation and he can have no contact with anyone outside the Mars colony. Child is a precocious MacGyver-like hacker and techie. He makes contact with a girl on earth. Decision is made that child (now a teenager) must come to earth despite health risks (I missed some of the details in fast-forwarding). Teenager comes to earth. He escapes his keepers who spend most of the film trying to track him down. Teenager runs away with girl and lives a lifetime in a few days. Teenager is captured but escapes again. Eventually he does go back to Mars and has to part with the girl but is happy to be home again where he (and his Mars-adjusted body) can live comfortably. The end.

    The plot actually doesn’t sound as stupid as it played out in this movie. You could take a few leaps of suspension of disbelief if the acting was good, the dialogue crisp, the action interesting. None of that occurs. As one reviewer succinctly put it “Fit for ages 12-15.” But so was Willy Wonka or even Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, films that I still find compelling and interesting. But certainly the target audience was a young one.

    I think the target audience of “The Space Between Us” was idiots with no taste. It’s just not fair to say that this movie is “for kids” and leave it at that. It’s simply another schlepped-out movie by the Get-A-Gold-Star-Just-For-Showing-Up generation. Oh…and another reviewer titles his review “The (Empty) Space Between (The Ears)”. Hard to argue with that.

  5. Anniel says:

    I have read the books in the Ransome Riggs series and wish I knew how he found the photos so liberally sprinkled through them. The people in the photos look so authentically strange. I almost hate to be let down by the movie, but I will at least consider it.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I kinda thought that “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” was an Annie kind of story.

      No doubt the movie is a letdown from the book. Books are almost always better. There are rare cases where movies capture the essential of the book and you can accept them both as good. Difference are always inherent between the formats though so it’s always an “apples and oranges” thing.

      I thought the first Narnia movie was an excellent adaptation. (The others were rather lame.) I thought the first Harry Potter movie was an excellent adaptation as well. And that’s saying something because of the elevated expectations.

      I’m flying blind regarding “Miss Peregrine.” I haven’t read the book. And I’m generally not all that hot on Tim Burton. But I was first of all surprised that his graphic excesses didn’t ruin it (although the ending was a bit much). The Ella Purnell as Emma was a charming character. Most of the others were just one-off oddities who were not particularly fleshed out, but sort of cute all the same. How can’t you like the boy who has bees inside him?

      The girl with the mouth in the back of her head made no sense. I can’t help imagining that she worked better in the book. And the actor who plays the young man who can animate things is kind of a boring actor.

      Miss Peregrine herself just isn’t given all that much to do. Maybe she is this one-dimension in the book. She’s kinda-sorta a character that works. She’s just missing something and I’m not sure what. I think they were trying too hard to rely on her as being “quirky” and that was all the infusion of personality she would get.

      But the story moves on. This is not simply a bunch of special effects with bits of a half-realized and disjointed plot patched in between spectacles. This actually had a story which surprised the hell out of me and made it worth watching.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I haven’t seen “Wonder Woman,” but my brother sent me this short video by Sage Hyden. You needn’t watch the whole video which takes a while to get the the essential point. The essential idea is: Bleeding off sincerity with goofball comedy because you don’t want to appear “corny” (that is, induce a reasonable and authentic emotion in your story telling) is a bad idea and ruins movies.

    Not that “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” doesn’t commit this sin from time to time. But I realize now that one of the reasons that I like the movie is that it is not afraid to tell a story. It doesn’t apologize for getting you involved in caring for the characters. It doesn’t bleed off an emotional connection by constantly yucking it up at the height of dramatic moments as a wink to the audience that “No, we’re not going to do anything cheesy.”

    And this is also one reason I hate the villain character played by Samuel Jackson. He does nothing but bleed off any sincere response to his character with cliched dialogue and stupid humor.

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