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Movie Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Movie poster from 20th Century Fox. 

One has to wonder if all of Tim Burton’s movies take place in a shared universe. They at least have a shared aesthetic and Burton’s latest film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, based off of the Ransom Riggs novel of the same name, is slathered in it. However, the characteristic wackiness becomes the only feature of interest.

The film centers around protagonist Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield), a kid from Florida who somehow manages to be both bland and abnormal at the same time and is only popular with one person: his grandfather. When Jake was a young boy, Grandpa Portman (Terence Stamp) regaled him with tales of the children’s home he grew up in and its strange denizens, all with photographic proof that served doubly as an allusion to the source material. When Jake’s grandfather has his eyes stolen out of their sockets and is killed by a monster only Jake can see, his cryptic last words send our protagonist off to Cairnholm, Wales in search of closure and answers. What he finds instead are the very characters that populated his grandfather’s bed time stories: the peculiar children and their eccentric caretaker, Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). To understand both his grandfather’s death and his own peculiarity, Jake has to confront the peculiar world’s greatest threat. 

Unfortunately, this film is a tale of finding a place to belong that never quite did that itself. Nearly all of the characters fell flat of achieving emotional depth or motivation. Sprinkle in a few shoehorned romances and you can look just as confused as Asa Butterfield did throughout the entire movie. Inexplicably, Jake and Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell), a peculiar girl who would float away without her leaden platform shoes, began to gravitate towards each other for no other reason than she is a girl and he is a boy. Oh, and of course the implied relationship that had existed between her and Jake’s grandfather. Throughout the entire movie, Emma flip flops between wanting Jake to stay with the peculiar children and telling him to go back to where he came from, though it’s difficult to say why she feels either way, as her character is given no backstory or personality that would inspire motive. 

Jake’s motivation, it would seem, is to decipher his grandfather’s last words and escape from the real trauma his death gave him, a trauma that the movie uses as pretty much just a plot device to get Jake to Cairnholm and then forgets he has. When Jake finds Miss Peregrine and her children, he now has to choose between staying in their world or returning to a world in which he does not belong. Good thing everyone is so welcoming of him at the children’s home, right? Wrong. The unwelcoming party comes in the form of Enoch O’Conner (Finlay MacMillan), a boy with a necromancer-like peculiarity and half of the second forced romance. Enoch’s entire character is that he is bad tempered and jealous of Jake. Of course that does not stop Olive, a girl with literal fire power, from pining after him. 

For all its faults, this film did have some pretty spectacular visuals and genuinely creepy moments. At one point, Emma takes Jake to her secret hideout which turns out to be a sunken ship. With her peculiarity, she fills an entire room on the ship with breathable air. The monsters, hollowgasts hunting the Peculiars for their eyes, were frightening and unsettling. The monsters had to be scary when coupled with the film’s main villain, Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson). Jackson played his villain as a mad scientist, complete with wild hair and one-liners. Though parts of the performance were enjoyable, Jackson’s interpretation may have been too light for an immortality-seeker intent on killing children for their eyes. 

Besides Jackson, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children had quite a few critically acclaimed actors. Eva Green did the most with her role. Green maintained a level of zaniness that was Burton-esque while still empathetic. Her undertaking was probably the largest since Miss Peregrine was responsible for explaining much of the peculiar world and yet Green managed to still be the most humanized character in the whole movie.

It seems like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will be just another movie in a long line of mediocre adaptations of young adult novels, an ironic fate for a film lauding peculiarity.

Grade: C

thescene@theeagleonline.com


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