Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is the YA/action adventure film directed by the master of macabre, Tim Burton. This is the live-action adaptation of the book by author Ransom Riggs. Rumor has it that the books have potential and are engaging. That’s too bad because the movie isn’t any of those things. This painfully slow adaptation isn’t a return to form for Burton. It’s the same old hokey filmmaking, but time actress Eva Green is the victim! He really wants to show the audience that he still has that Beetlejuice, Mars Attacks charm. He wants you to know that his version of what is weird is acceptable. In a time where weirdness, geekiness, is the new norm, his message, and Miss Peregrine seem 10-years too late.
Growing up in Florida, Jake (Asa Butterfield) is an awkward teenager who can’t seem to fit in. He spends his days in school where he gets picked on and maintains a lame day job. At home, he spends his evenings listening to his grandfather’s stories of monsters and children with special powers. When tragedy strikes his family, the event propels Jake to travel to Wales to verify if his grandfather’s stories have any truth to them.
On his journey, he encounters Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), a magical woman who can control time and transform into a Peregrine bird. She is the overseer of a group of peculiar group of element benders who can control the elements of earth, air, and fire. Unaware of the danger the peculiars are in, he discovers that he is destined to save the group from the villainous Hollows. The Hallows are a group of rogue peculiars lead by Barron (Samuel L. Jackson). Barron wants Miss Peregrine’s power and intends to take it by force. Jake and the peculiar X-children must fight for survival as they are being hunted down by Baron and the Hollow.
Burton has an eye for color, setting, and costumes. Miss Peregrine is ripe with vibrant colors, and characters that actually look like they are among the living. He is the best a manipulating color and knows how to incorporate the perfect color scheme into his films. Another highlight is the costumes. As the film jumps between present day and 1940s Wales, each look compliments the era to the letter. He seems to be backing away from the ghoulish, pale, dark looks of previous films which is a nice aesthetic change. But my goodness, the acting, and the story is intolerable.
Asa Butterfield is a dull leading man as his affect nearly bored me to death. In fact, none of the child actors are particularly interesting. However, Eva Green as Miss Peregrine is a fantastic change for the dark and brooding actress. Her costume is beautifully tailored to her body shape and gives her a bird-like appearance. It’s easy to tell she really prepared the role and wants to do a good job. Unfortunately, it feels like she’s acting as Burton’s cinematic crutch. She carries this film on her shoulders and once she disappears, the film goes downhill fast. Samuel L. Jackson as Baron is so goofy I found myself laughing at him and not with him, and Dame Judi Dench as Miss Avocet is wasted in her cameo appearance.
This witless, boring plot does contain a good message. It’s okay to be weird, strange, believe in magic, and there are people in the world who will accept you as you are. While this is a great message for children and adults to internalize, why does the audience have to be beaten to death with it? Watching this film is a draining experience. Why is a predictable film such as this so draining?! There are bits of action within the 30 minutes but by that time who cares. The time in between is spent watching Jake whine, about his decision on whether or not he wants to stay with the peculiar or go. The film couldn’t have ended fast enough.
Reading the books might have served me better. I haven’t read the book but I can already tell the movie contains a ridiculous amount of unnecessary changes. It makes me wonder if those that have read the book will like this movie. Tim Burton really tries hard to let us know that he’s back and better than ever, but he’s not. This is the same old mediocre stuff from him. I just hope Eva Green won’t get the Johnny Depp treatment. Ugh, what is it going to take for Tim Burton to return to glory? Too many misses and not enough hits make me weary for his next cinematic venture.
[A previous version of this review can be found here.]