Burton and Green give life to 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children'

DF-15506 - Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) demonstrates one of her many time-bending talents to Jake (Asa Butterfield) and Fiona (Georgia Pemberton). Photo Credit: Jay Maidment.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Tim Burton
Writers: Ransom Riggs (novel), Jane Goldman (screenplay)
Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and peril
Recommended to: Fans of old school Tim Burton willing to look past a fairly clunky adaptation

Synopsis: In the wake of his grandfather’s death Jacob (Asa Butterfield) discovers a mysterious group of children with special powers under the watch of the mysterious Miss Peregrine.

Review: Even a Tim Burton apologist like myself has to admit that it his output in this century has been incredibly uneven. For every “Big Fish” or “Frankenweenie” we’ve had “Dark Shadows” and “Planet of the Apes.” I even found “Big Eyes,” a film adored by some, to be an artistic misfire.

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” a story about group of misfits with bizarre abilities and talents who essentially are trapped in time, forced to exist within a single day that repeats over and over again. It’s the sort of material that feels perfectly suited to Burton’s sensibilities. Its creepy, cooky and a little bit spooky. While some consider Burton’s aesthetic to be dark, I’ve always found it to be a playful mixture of gothic horror camp with a side of childhood nostalgia (circa 1960). Even when pushed to its extreme, there’s always a sense of wonder and otherworldliness that somehow manages to dull the knife’s blade (which is why “Big Eyes” didn’t work for me).

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is the best live-action film Burton has made since 2007’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” It’s far from a perfect film, but a lot of that has to do with Jane Goldman’s script. Like many adaptations, “Miss Peregrine’s” spends a lot of time world building and ultimately that gets in the way of the central narrative.

In a novel you can spend as much time as you need to give a fantasy world the most intricate of details, but a film has to find shortcuts to establish the rules of the universe of the story. The first half, if not more, of Goldman’s script is spent explaining the situation we find ourselves in. It would be difficult to streamline all the information, but considering the magical nature of the world these characters inhabit I don’t know that we need all the information that we are given.

Most of what is good about the film is due to Burton and the casting of Eva Green, who plays Miss Peregrine. The story, however, feels like a mixture of Harry Potter’s magical realm and the mutants of Marvel’s X-Men comics (Goldman co-wrote “X-Men: First Class” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past”). Traveling to a world populated by the unusual shouldn’t feel this conventional.

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