I wasn’t expecting much from Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, released in the U.S. last Friday. That’s because: 1) the premise–a household of misfit children with extraordinary powers sounded too much like Marvel Comics’ X-Men or New Mutants; and 2) because it was directed by Tim Burton, whose movies I loathe so vehemently that they make my therapist blanch when I speak of them.
(Just kidding: we don’t discuss Tim’s movies)
The reason I abhor almost anything done by Tim Burton is because: 1) his ersatz Edward Gorey macabre visual style wears thin on me (unlike everyone else, I’m underwhelmed by The Nightmare Before Christmas) ; 2) he struggles to tell a coherent story (I’m looking at you, Planet of the Apes); and 3) his adaptations of others’ characters and works are hit- (Batman) or-miss (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).
But Burton hits it out of the park this time with Miss Peregrine’s Home, which I am ashamed to say that I have not yet read the young adult novel that the film is based upon. After finding his grandfather Abraham (the always-terrific Terence Stamp) murdered under mysterious circumstances, teenage Jake Portman (played by Asa Butterfield, of Ender’s Game) travels to Wales–and back in time–to the home run by Miss Peregrine (the bewitching Eva Green), where the children who live there are, indeed, very peculiar.
Despite the similarity in concept with Marvel’s mutant comics, Miss Peregrine goes off in a dark, compelling direction as Jake learns that the children are threatened by “Hollows”–sinister “Peculiars” mutated into monsters–led by the mirthful but malevolent Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson).
The film differs significantly from the book, or so I’m informed, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The casting is fantastic (though some aren’t happy); the acting well done (though Dame Judi Dench is given little to do); the story gripping and unpredictable; the costumes smashing (so much so, that two characters make references to their quality); and the effects seamless (perhaps because many of them are not CGI, and the “home” scenes are shot on location).
Burton reins in his gothic visuals, only really letting go in the scenes with Barron and/or the “Hollows.” His imagining of the “loop” in time (September 3, 1943) where Miss Peregrine and the children live the same 24 hours, presumably forever, is sunny, beautiful, and inviting, though not without its dark corners (as mentioned by Emma, the girl who wears lead shoes so she won’t float away, it isn’t “a perfect day”). The final confrontation between Jake and the “peculiar” children against Barron and his monsters is a nice mix of juvenile derring-do and suspenseful horror.
Visit Miss Peregrine’s Home soon!
Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy. His latest work-in-progress is This Wasted Land, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in early 2017.
Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief. He also wrote Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.
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