Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Review – A Better Burton, but not Great

Tim Burton’s latest film does not lack charm, quirkiness, and stunning beauty, but is missing some heart and teeth.

Director: Tim Burton
Writer: Jane Goldman
Stars: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Ella Purnell, Finlay MacMillan, Lauren McCrostie, Hayden Keeler-Stone, Georgia Pemberton, Milo Parker, Raffiella Chapman, Pixie Davies, Joseph Odwell, Thomas Odwell, Louis Davison, Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench, Allison Janney, Christ O’Dowd, Terence Stamp

Jake (Butterfield) feels alone and strange in his world. He grew up believing in children with powers and monsters who hunt them, but the dreams fueled by his grandfather (Stamp) were crushed by his teachers and father (O’Dowd), putting a damper in the close relationship he had with his grandfather. After his grandfather dies under mysterious circumstances, Jake is set on a journey that leads him thru a time loop to Miss Peregrine’s (Green) home and discovery of his own peculiar nature.

A strange fairy tale, Miss Peregrine’s is miles better than Alice and Wonderland, but doesn’t manage to hold a candle to Burton classics like Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. The sets are wondrously beautiful and the CGI effects are top notch. It is difficult not to get caught up in the magic of the “time loop” which Miss Peregrine and the children live in. The Peculiar children have a host of remarkable powers. When they band together to use them in the film’s climax (which features a great stop motion fight that brings Army of Darkness to mind), it puts some of the major superhero movies to shame.

Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

What is missing is more character development and heart. It is great to watch Olive (McCrostie) set fire to anything she touches, Horace (Stone) project his dreams on screen for entertainment, or little Bronwyn (Davis) eat food with the mouth in the back of her head. Outside of these little tidbits, we don’t know too much about what these children like where they come from or why they ended up with Miss Peregrine. Even Jake and Emma (Purnell), who are the anchors of the movie, aren’t given much other than a love story that falls a flat.

The various time loops all around the world a peculiar home exists in is briefly talked about, but not expanded on which is a shame because I found it fascinating. The rules of time-travel are elaborate and become a little difficult to follow especially when the film starts to head into the third act. I haven’t read the book series the film is based on (it has been sitting on my shelf waiting for me to crack it open for some time) making some of the whimsical vocabulary used and all the rules go over my head.

While there are some intense scenes with the monsters known as Hollowgasts (or Hollows for short) that will frighten the little ones, the villains never come across as scary. Jackson’s Barron is supposed to be menacing with a peculiarity that allows him to become whatever he wishes. He should have wished to be more like Jules Winnfield cause this film could have used a “mushroom cloud laying mother -” like him to give some sort of feeling of danger towards the children. His other companions just sit around with blank white-eyed stares. I get the feeling the villains were supposed to be more chilling, but was toned way down to keep the film on the lower scale of PG-13.

Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

With all of these complaints in mind, Miss Peregrine’s Home is an enjoyable movie, just not a great one. If this had been made by any other director, I would have probably appreciated it more. Knowing Burton is capable of so much better, the peculiar nature of the film falls flat.

3 ½ out of 5 Stars

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The Nerdling has an unhealthy obsession with books, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Star Wars. She finds hockey to be the best sport in the world (Go Dallas Stars!) and is working on her first novel, but mostly glowers at a blank screen. You can find her on Twitter @nerdlingstale on Facebook @NerdlingTales or Instagram @nerdling_tales

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