PLOT: When his beloved grandfather leaves Jake clues to a mystery that spans different worlds and times, he finds a magical place known as Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children. But the mystery and danger deepen as he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers – and their terrifying enemies. Ultimately, Jake discovers that only his own special peculiarity can save his new friends. Based on the novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, written by Ransom Riggs.
VERDICT: I don’t know where to start with this one. It’s not Tim Burton’s worst film, in my opinion that dishonour still belongs to Dark Shadows, but I hated Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Admittedly, though, I went into the screening expecting to hate it. Thanks to his patchy output in recent years, Tim Burton has gone from being my favourite director to probably being my most despised.
Way back in the 90s, when I was a teenager and studying animation in college (because of my love of Tim Burton – and Terry Gilliam), I read a review of Sleepy Hollow in which the reviewer referred to Tim Burton as ‘not a good director, just a director who has read a few coffee table art books’, that comment infuriated me at the time, however, I have to say, I think the subsequent years have proved that reviewer right.
Since Mars Attacks, Burton’s $80 million box-office flop, I feel Burton has been playing it safe, making bog-standard Hollywood movies with typical ‘…and everyone fights at the end’ and ‘…and now you see that being not like the others is a good thing’ endings, only his movies have that kooky Tim Burton look, which, for Hollywood, I suppose, makes them ‘different,’ ‘edgy’ and ‘arty’, Planet of the Apes, Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows and now Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children are the worst examples of this.
So what’s wrong with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? [SPOILERS] In my opinion, the script is messy. It starts off promising, everything with Terence Stamp as Jake’s Grandfather at the start of the movie is really good, as is the establishment of the uncomfortable relationship between Jake and his father, who takes Jake to Wales so he could find the school his grandfather used to tell bedtimes tales about. But once Jake finds Miss Peregrine’s home the film started to lose me. The film seemed to stall here because the only real plot thread established up to this point was: is the school real or a product of Jake’s grandfather’s imagination? Once Jake is in the school meeting all the ‘peculiar’ children – few of which are given any real personality – I was wondering where the film would go from here. And that’s when we’re hastily given the main plot, which arrives courtesy of Samuel L. Jackson’s stock villain, Barron. He’s a mutant, I mean a ‘peculiar’ who wants to be immortal, and, because he’s evil, he, and his followers, will stop at nothing to get what they want. (Yawn.) Barron kidnaps Miss. Peregrine because … yadda … yadda … yadda will make him immortal. So now, led by Jake, it’s up to the peculiar kids to use their peculiar powers to get her back.
It’s about here that the film becomes typical Hollywood popcorn entertainment and interesting themes that were started during the first half of the movie, like the relationship between Jake and his father, are completely abandoned without any resolution. Instead, we’re given CGI fight scenes and, because Samuel L. Jackson’s antagonist, Barron is a shape-shifter, we, of course, get a ‘which one is the real Jake, and which one do we shoot?’ scene. It’s this scene that leads to Barron being killed by a monster (or Hollow), which creeps up on him from behind, and yet, how that huge monster gets into the room that scene takes place in is a mystery to me. Like the character himself, Barron’s end felt like lazy writing. But we get our happy ending; the film even hits the reset button on the Grandfather’s death, which I found really annoying.
I’m a Eva Green fan, she’s probably why I went to see the movie, since I have pretty much given up on Tim Burton, and as the titular character you would expect Eva Green’s Miss Peregrine to be a major part of the story, but actually Miss Peregrine doesn’t really do much, she’s doesn’t enter the film until the end of the first act and then spends most of the third act either off screen or as a bird, without having any real effect on the outcome of the story.
All in all, it’s not a terrible movie, just not a very good one. I hate it, however, because Tim Burton was one of my first loves, and the reason I loved him was because he used to make movies so much better than this. 4/10