by Brad Nelson 6/19/17
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 IMDB.com 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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