Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Posted September 30, 2016 by Daniel Hodgson in
Like an X-Men flick (both distributed by 20th Century Fox) but without a Quicksilver bullet-time sequence or much action to speak of. Oh man, is the middle act so very boring.
Shower thought: Why would the distributor move Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children from the money-maker month of December to the sleepy days of late September and early October?
This is what goes through the mind of a film critic while shampooing. I knew something wasn’t right before I left for a rare early afternoon screening, which only confirmed my suspicion: Tim Burton’s latest is another misfire for the gothic auteur.
The film is based on the best-selling children’s book of the same name by Ransom Riggs. Is it faithful? I cannot tell you, I haven’t read it. I can tell you though that this movie is like an X-Men flick (both distributed by 20th Century Fox) but without a Quicksilver bullet-time sequence or much action to speak of. Oh man, is the middle act so very boring.
There’s no reason for it to be. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (which sound suspiciously like Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters) is about super-powered youths who are persecuted by the world at large and battle evil versions of their own kind—which doesn’t actually occur until an hour into the movie.
What does it do until then? Voice-over narration, flashbacks, and expositional dialog. This movie is 80% world-building and backstory, and 20% anything actually happening. There is much to explain, so bare with me.
The story is about Jacob Portman (Asa Butterfield), a bland teenager low on the social pecking order. His grandfather, Abraham (Terence Stamp), whom he was close to, is murdered by a creature that resembles Slenderman but with a shark-like grin. I must admit, the Hollowghast, the monsters of the movie, look pretty freaking cool.
Jacob and his father (Chris O’Down) travel to Cairnholm, the Welsh island where the titular home supposedly stood, before the Nazis dropped a bomb on it. Here, Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) keeps a proper British home for misfits and outcasts too-familiar to Burton’s ouvre. They have standard super-powers, including pyrokinetics, invisibility, and flight (or well, floating), and some not-so-standard powers, such as being able to project dreams and premonitions onto a movie screen (a super-power I do not want…). Ripping off Marvel Comic books, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children inherits the weakness of the source material it seems to so liberally borrows from: characters are too-often defined by their powers, rather than by personality traits. I could not have been more indifferent to Burton’s latest menagerie of weirdoes had anything actually been happening to them.
There, Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), an Ymbryne, a special kind of peculiar who can transform into a bird, resets the day like Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow, creating a time-loop which makes the Peculiars effectively immortal, provided that Miss Peregrine resets a stopwatch. If she doesn’t, well, the kids will find out if a German bomb goes kablooey, or if it’s as much a dud as this movie is.
Honestly, the time travel elements of this movie lost me. Are the watches magical? Why can only Ymbryne use them? Who makes them, and why? Given that only Peculiars can enter a time-loop and travel back in time (and what exactly is the mechanism for their time travel?), why are watches or Ybryne necessary? And am I overthinking this?
Quite possibly. Now to over-analyze: Jacob a boy on the cusp of adulthood, escapes into the fairy-tale stories he believed as a child. Rather than a coming-of-age story, Miss Peregrine’s Home is about regression, and that’s a best-case-scenario. On the other hand, Jacob, who’s been traumatized, sees a psychotherapist (Allison Janney), and perceives things no one else can, may have fallen into madness, a malady inherent in his bloodline, and the story represents a complete abandonment of reality.
In its favor, the film has some first-rate special effects, and the production design looks great, as you’d expect from a Tim Burton flick, but ultimately, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children comes closer to Alice in Wonderland or Dark Shadows than to the director’s career highlights. 2 out of 5 stars.