Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children


Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children
"Overall, the film doesn't quite achieve the level of dramatic tension it should."

Please! Not another film which all hinges on the timely turning back of the hands of time. Even, or especially, when, as in the case of Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, time travel is achieved by actually turning back the hands on a battered old carriage clock which - in what is surely paradox - we first see ominously not ticking in the ruins of the aforementioned home.

It's not that time travel dramas can't work. Rather, it's the increasingly too clever twists and twirls that writers of such plots include in order to wow the reader, which, when rendered on film, leave the audience, long after the final credits have rolled, wondering what just happened.

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Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children opens with Jake (Asa Butterfield) stumbling across the body of his grandfather, Abe (Terence Stamp). He has been murdered in the most gruesome of ways, killed and – plot klaxon! - his eyes removed from his body. If you are squicked by nasty things happening to peoples' eyes, do not watch this film.

Jake is, not unnaturally, upset. He was close to grandpa, even if a little put out by the latter's tendency to invent tales of a special “home for peculiar children” situated somewhere on the coast of Wales. Seeking closure through a meeting with the home's guardian, Miss Peregrine, Jake travels from the US with useless dad Franklin (Chris O'Dowd), only to find the home in ruins.

Or is it? Of course it isn't. It's just hidden in a “time loop”: an almost perfect summer's day in September 1943, maintained by Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), whose strange assortment of powers includes the ability to control time and to transform into a bird. Whisked away, Jake meets various peculiars, including lighter than air Emma (Ella Purnell), creepy puppetmaker Enoch (Finlay MacMillan), and firestarter Olive (Lauren McCrostie).

He also learns about the villainous Barron (Samuel L Jackson), a grown-up peculiar and leader of a gang of nasty peculiars responsible for his grandfather's death and with dread designs on the children currently under Miss Peregrine's wing. Dastardly ophthalmic deeds are on the cards unless Jake discovers his own peculiarity, uniquely suited to battling Barron, and steps up and saves the day.

And while he's about it, will he/won't he opt for romance with Emma, or saving his grandfather? Decisions, decisions!

Its all pretty standard quirky gothic fare of the sort we have come to expect from director Tim Burton. It may go down well with its intended teenage target audience but it fails to hit the high notes of previous Burton films such as Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands.

Quite apart from the complex time looping angle, of which more than enough now said, there is a sense, too often with Burton, of a director trying just a little too hard to be clever. When it comes off, it comes off brilliantly but when it doesn't, it falls a little, a lot flat.

There are little trucs – Mrs Peregrine's deliciously decadent pipe-smoking, for instance – which appear added for the instant titillation provided and then carelessly discarded. With a thoroughly star-studded cast, actors are wasted. Rupert Everett is a fine and villainous ornithologist, alter ego to Jackson's camper villainy, but Judi Dench, as Peregrine's ally, Miss Avocet, is reduced to embarrassing extra, while Chris O'Dowd woefully under-used.

Overall, the film doesn't quite achieve the level of dramatic tension it should. Elsewhere, Tim Burton is under fire not only for the lack of diversity in his movies but also for his explanation for this lack of diversity, and the fact that Samuel L Jackson might be the first ever person of colour he has cast in a leading role: it is because of forced political correctness in the Brady Bunch!

Huh? Now that is peculiar. Very.

Many thanks to the independent Broadway Cinema Letchworth, without whom this review would not have been possible.

Reviewed on: 30 Sep 2016
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Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children packshot
A boy who discovers a magical place that spans worlds and times comes to realise that it's under threat - and perhaps only he can save it.
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Director: Tim Burton

Writer: Jane Goldman, based on the book by Ransom Riggs

Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L Jackson, Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, Allison Janney, Chris O'Dowd, Terence Stamp

Year: 2016

Runtime: 127 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, Belgium, US


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