Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, with Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Tim Burton
Cert: 12A Running Time: 127 mins
Release Date: 30th September 2016
There are times throughout Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children that you want to punch the air for another Tim Burton movie has arrived, one not a million miles from The Nightmare Before Xmas or Edward Scissorhands – for Burton, himself being a celebrator of the peculiar, seems the perfect fit to take on Ransom Riggs’ 2011 bestseller. We are treated to the slurping of eyeballs, stop motion fight club and many more dark and deliciously disturbing things within, but it is the slanting differences between his own aesthetics and Jane Goldman’s screenplay that ultimately trip the film up in final quarter.
Similar to Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, teenager Jake (Asa Butterfield) finds himself falling down a rabbit hole or time loop to visit the children’s home of the title after his Grandpa Abe (Terence Stamp) dies in mysterious circumstances. Whispering only a cryptic message before he dies, Jake knows his death has something to do with his stories of Miss Peregrine and the childrens home she ran during the Second World War. He sets off on an adventure to discover if the home still exists with his disinterested father in tow (a convincing Chris O’Dowd) and soon discovers a collection of children who along with their guardian (Eva Green) exist in a fracture of time where it is forever 1943.
It’s a mixed affair in terms of delights. Meeting all the peculiar children is a treat, each one weirder than the last, from the cloth covered scare-children to the boy with bees in his mouth (Milo Parker), the girl who sets fire to things by touch (Lauren McCrostie), the young man (Finlay MacMillan) who like Burton’s Frankenweenie can animate objects with tiny animal hearts and Emma (Ella Purnell) who is as light as air. All of these lead to a picnic of visual delights and Burton has fun exploring their gifts however, their peculiarities are all we see, with very little personality to back them up so that they remain oddly at arms length to the audience.
Eva Green is luminous as the matriarch and protector of these strange children, her costume by Colleen Atwood feeding into her gothic presence while Asa Butterfield excels as the young man who may be just as peculiar as they are. However, the film begins to slowly buckle under its own weight as the plot begins to get more and more confusing. Conflict comes in the shape of Barron played by Samuel L. Jackson, who along with his stilt-walking ‘hollows’ – eyeless creatures with tentacles spewing from their mouths have been looking for Miss Peregrine’s children for many years. Were the story simply an attack by the hollows pitted against these extraordinary children in their spooky home it would have been everything the first hour had promised but when the plot veers to a sequence in a bright techno-pumping fairground, you know something’s gone awry somewhere.
Burton is not all about the visuals, he’s also a terrific storyteller and the theme of isolation – of being at odds with the world around you is well captured but sadly here his pairing with Goldman’s script has straddled him between two worlds, a little like the peculiars.