I wanted to love Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The trailer was spectacular and it looked especially compelling. The concepts are interesting and the characters are imaginative. However, there were flaws in the movie which meant it delivered less than was promised. I liked it and it was enjoyable but didn’t reach its full potential.
So let me start with the story. Based on a bestselling YA series of the same name, it begins with sixteen year old Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield) finding his grandfather’s house in shambles and his grandfather (Terence Stamp) on his last breath. His Grandfather tells him “to find the bird in the loop on the other side of the old man’s grave on September 1940” and tell them what happened. Jake sees something he can’t explain and neither his parents nor the police believe him. He is sent to see psychiatrist Dr. Golan (Allison Janney) who he shares that his grandfather spoke of peculiar children and a home in Wales. Jake used to believe these stories but eventually stopped, trying to be normal. Dr. Golan helps him convince his parents to let him go to Wales to visit an island his Grandfather spoke of.
He and his father (Chris O’Dowd) head out to the island, his father using the trip so he can write a book about birds. Jake explores and finds the orphanage destroyed. But he soon learns the children are alive and crosses time to visit them and Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). Miss Peregrine is a peculiar called an Ymbrynes who can manipulate time and has created a time loop for them all to live in. He finds himself wrapped up in their world, especially Emma (Ella Purnell). But the more he visits, the more the danger deepens as he learns of their special powers and the enemies surrounding them.
Here’s what I liked. The acting was fantastic. I am a fan of Eva Green, having watched her in Penny Dreadful and it was refreshing to see that talent adapted to a new role. She was convincing and shined as the headmistress of the home for peculiar children, protective and fierce at the same time. Same goes for the main character, Jake. Asa Butterfield did a great job as a kid entering a strange world, feeling out of place in his normal life, only to find out he’s not as normal as he thought. The children of the movie title were all imaginative and the young actors playing their parts did so with believability and fun. And Samuel L. Jackson as Barron came across as threatening and dangerous.
I was especially pleased with the special effects. There are monsters and as said before, dangers in this movie. They are designed well and middle graders to teenagers will find them creepy but not too scary in my opinion. The powers of the children are enthralling and on screen, the effects are cool. Mrs. Peregrine turning into a bird was one of my favorite bits. In addition, the story is an absorbing one with some very thought-provoking concepts about the manipulation of time that young adults will follow while grownups will thoroughly enjoy.
However, there were certain flaws I couldn’t quite get past. The pacing in the beginning of the movie is uneven. There is a scene with Jake working at the grocery store, only there to show us how out of place he is which is shown later on. The whole time they are in Florida, I kept waiting for the movie to begin. The action does pick up once they are in Wales but I was restless during that sequence. Some of it was important to the setup of the movie so I could forgive it somewhat but it could have been trimmed down.
His relationship with his father doesn’t feel deep and meaningful. It feels like there is a lot of backstory that we are supposed to already know. Unfortunately, if it’s in the books, it didn’t translate well to the movie. His father, despite the actor doing a decent job with the part, is two dimensional. Honestly, most of Jake’s family and any of the characters who were not peculiars felt that way, flat and not quite realistic.
The 3-D effects not only felt like they were completely unimportant to the movie but occasionally disrupted my attention from the story and also made me a bit dizzy when they cut in and out. Personally, if you have the option to go to a regular film, do it. The 3-D did not work in the live action setting.
Despite these flaws, I felt the story had some compelling messages. Jake learns that he is different and all of the children feel like they embrace their differences. One of the lines from the movie is Emma telling Jake, “You helped us be brave.” And I think that is the message I took away from this film, be brave and embrace who you are. Jake has the opportunity to make a difference and find a place where he fits in. I think young adults will find that a powerful message. I was entertained by the acting and by the concepts in the film. If you are a fan of the books or fantasy, you will like this film. And I think if you are willing to get through the slow beginning, you will be rewarded with a fun, enjoyable movie.
Rating: 4 for acting and effects, 3.5 for story and directing.
From visionary director Tim Burton, and based upon the best-selling novel, comes an unforgettable motion picture experience. When Jake discovers clues to a mystery that spans alternate realities and times, he uncovers a secret refuge known as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As he learns about the residents and their unusual abilities, Jake realizes that safety is an illusion, and danger lurks in the form of powerful, hidden enemies. Jake must figure out who is real, who can be trusted, and who he really is.
Cast: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, with Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Tim Burton
Screenplay by Jane Goldman, based upon the novel written by Ransom Riggs, published by Quirk Books