Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

Genres - Adventure, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Fantasy Adventure, Fantasy Drama  |   Release Date - Sep 30, 2016 (USA)  |   Run Time - 127 min.  |   Countries - Belgium , United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Tim Burton, renowned for his affinity for all things odd, has unsurprisingly turned his directorial attention to a film adaptation of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Based on the 2011 young-adult novel by Ransom Riggs, the story centers on Jacob (Hugo's Asa Butterfield), an American teenager who grew up hearing his grandfather's fantastical stories of the children's home where he spent his youth. However, this is no ordinary orphanage: All of the children living there -- as well as Miss Peregrine, the woman charged with their care (Penny Dreadful's sublime Eva Green) -- possess magical abilities similar to those of Marvel's X-Men or the witches and wizards of J.K. Rowling's Hogwarts. They are, in the story's vernacular, "peculiars."

In the wake of his grandfather's murder, Jacob sets off to Wales to find the children's home, despite the fact that his skeptical and emotionally detached father (Chris O'Dowd) had always written off those stories as mere fairy tales. Jacob is devastated to learn that a Nazi bomb had destroyed the orphanage during World War II, but things take a turn for the weird when he realizes that the establishment actually exists in a Groundhog Day-esque "time loop" in the past, which allows the children and Miss Peregrine to live forever in the moment before the place was touched by the devastation of war. Oh, by the way, in addition to being able to transform into a peregrine falcon whenever she pleases, Miss Peregrine is also a master manipulator of time. Though things initially seem peaceful enough in this idyllic space, a dastardly threat soon emerges in the form of a malevolent fellow called Barron (Samuel L. Jackson).

Between the imaginatively creepy creatures, striking color palettes, exquisite costumes, and marvelous settings, Tim Burton has built a delightfully strange and compelling world for this movie, one that incorporates some of his well-known aesthetics. However, the sheer mass of plot makes this a difficult story to translate seamlessly to the silver screen. Reading the book felt overwhelming at times due to the sheer volume of information therein, and it's clear that fitting its bloated narrative into a 127-minute film was quite a struggle. Historical details and events that are vital to the plot are rushed through, and many of the titular peculiar children are completely neglected -- throughout the entirety of the movie, they are little more than eerie, one-dimensional props who conveniently show up just in time to provide crucial assistance.

Many of the relationships feel forced, since there isn't enough time to develop them and the actors involved have no discernible chemistry. The main romance between Jacob and Emma (Ella Purnell), a peculiar girl who can manipulate air, does not escape this criticism: Despite the young actors' talent, far too much time is wasted trying to convince the audience of their love for each other, when it would have been better spent fleshing out the other characters. Eva Green is an incomparably perfect Miss Peregrine and she shines during her time onscreen (as she does in all of her work), but unfortunately, her woefully limited appearance seems almost like a cameo and leaves the audience wanting more. While his character feels like an underdeveloped plot device, Samuel L. Jackson is fantastic in his role: Rocking a wild, white hairdo that recalls Max Shreck in Burton's Batman Returns, Jackson gifts the audience with a performance that is equal parts witty and foreboding.

This movie contains moments of great fun and excitement that will transport the audience into its big, strange world (keep an eye out for a terrifically entertaining skeleton-battle sequence). But while Tim Burton has successfully created a deliciously magical, wonderfully odd setting for Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, the storytelling itself falls short.