The Peculiar Tim Burton Does It Again with MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME

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Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Based on the debut novel by Ransom Riggs, MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN tells the story of a young teen named Jacob Portman (Asa Butterfield, ENDER’S GAME) who, through and from his grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp), discovers clues to a mystery that spans time itself, leading him to a magical, mysterious place called Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children...and it is here that the mystery and the danger deepens and escalates as he comes to grip with who he is, who his grandfather was, and who Miss Peregrine and the extraordinary “peculiar” children are.

I found this to be a very interesting movie on several levels. For one, it was sort of like the X-Men, sort of like The Avengers, sort of like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, sort of like Harry Potter, sort of like Beetlejuice, and sort of like Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, all in one.

Second, with Tim Burton at the helm, while it was instantly a Burton movie it was also sort of like a Terry Gilliam movie (BARON MUNCHAUSEN), Sort of like a Guillermo Del Toro move (PAN’S LABYRINTH) and it had a definite homage I thought to Ray Harryhausen (particularly JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS). Burton did a great job of not letting this be just a CGI/stop motion see-what-we-can-do spectacle. Instead, he wove a story that I understand to be close to the book, keeping the look and feel of all the children intact while letting his imagination take flight with the stop motion “toys.” (I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll just use the word “toys” here -- but you’ll know what I mean when you see the scenes.)

To give a little background, Miss Alma LeFay Peregrine (Eva Green) is an “Ymbryne” a person that can not only turn herself into a bird but also control time, and their main goal is to protect the “Peculiar” children. They do this by creating a “time loop,” a single day that they are able to repeat over and over by resetting clock/watch they have. For Miss Peregrine and the children in her charge, this would be September 3rd 1943. The day was chosen by necessity rather than by choice, because it was that night that a bomb from a German war plane destroyed the home, so Miss Peregrine created the time loop to the day of -- and just before -- the bombing.

All is not rosy for Miss Peregrine and the other Ymbrynes, as there is an evil afoot in the form of Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), a bad peculiar and leader of the Wights (a splinter sect of the peculiars) who controls the “Hollowgasts,” creatures who were once peculiars but because of Barron’s experiment gone wrong, morphed into hideous creature who now want to consume the eyes of the peculiars, to help change back. He is trying to hunt down all of the Ymbrynes because he feels that using them in his experiments will help him achieve immortality, an event that had disastrous results on him and his cohorts the first time around. But he feels now that he has perfected his process. Jake, thrown into the midst to help Miss Peregrine and the peculiars turns out to be a bit of a peculiar himself (like his grandfather), because he is the only one who can see the Hollowgasts, who are otherwise invisible. Jake also ends up falling for one of the peculiars. No spoilers here, but she also liked his grandfather. Can you say paradox?

I think what I liked most about this movie is that the story kept pace with all the special effects. To me this was very well woven to the point where I did not know what was going to happen next or even where the story was going. But it was laid out in such a fashion that at all times it kept me interested, and when there could have been a slow point there was a special effect that would pop up that made me say, “Now that’s cool!” Did I mention the movie is in 3D?! Well it is, and it is used in typical Burton fashion. There are scenes here that had me gob-smacked!

This movie should appeal to both the YA and adult crowds. Burton has made some images that are downright nightmare-producing while also giving us tidbits that will have us recalling things from other of his movies. (There is an eyeball scene and several others that could have easily been a part of something like BEETLEJUICE.)

All of the peculiars are portrayed well and are enjoyable to watch. It is always interesting for me to see how younger actors portray their roles when many scenes of their scenes are added via CGI afterwards. (How do they perform in front of a blank screen pretending something is there?) I never got a sense that they did not have their particular peculiarity outside of the purposeful outlandishness of some of the scenes.

And what an eclectic mix of peculiars it is at that:

  • Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell) has to wear lead boots because she is lighter than the air which she can also control.

  • Enoch O’Conner (Finlay MacMillan) can bring things back to life for a short time -- he can even make non-living things alive as well.

  • Olive Abroholos Elephanta (Lauren McCrostie) wears flame retardant gloves because she can set things on fire just by touching them.

  • Horace Somnusson (Hayden Keeler-Stone) is a dedicated fashionista; he has prophetic dreams which can be projected by use of a special lens held up to his eye.

  • Fiona Fraunfeld (Georgia Pemberton) can make plants and trees grow incredibly fast and large.

  • Hugh Apiston (Milo Parker) has bees living inside him.

  • Claire Densmore (Raffiella Chapman) has an extra mouth with very sharp teeth that she uses to eat with.

  • Bronwyn Bruntley (Pixie Davies) possesses incredible strength like her brother Victor (Louis Davison), who was killed by Hollows but kept in a room because Enoch can bring him back for a short while.

  • ‘The Twins” (Joseph and Thomas Odwell) have to keep their faces covered because they can turn people to stone like Medusa by looking at them.

  • Millard Nullings (Cameron King) is invisible.

If there was one character I did not like (and it was the character, not the actor’s fault) it was that of Jake’s dad Franklin (Chris O’Dowd). For some reason he just didn’t fit in the story as well as he could have. And Jake’s grandpa, purposefully and wonderfully played by the great Terence Stamp, looked strangely like an old Christopher Walken.

I also liked how the story comes around full circle with some wonderful paradoxical twists that tidy things up nicely leaving to loose ends (so to speak). I don’t know if, given the way the movie ends, there will be a sequel or not. With time manipulation, anything is possible. But if there is not one, then that is okay, as Burton in his typical fashion ties it all together nicely.

A difficult thing for a movie to overcome sometimes is that it can be overshadowed by its director. While watching this movie, I couldn’t help but remember who was behind the camera. Burton is so unique, and so much of who he is and what he does is in every scene, every shot, even if it is just the overall cinematography at times. The story here holds up, though, enough that I believe that fans of a good story, of the book, of Tim Burton, and of fantasy will all find enough to enjoy in this movie. I mean, there’s a good story, with good actors, good guys versus bad guys, budding teenage love, found under-the-nose love, monsters, special effects, beautiful cinematography, and 3D – oh! and Dame Judi Dench as well! What’s not to like!? (Although I would be a little cautious for those younger movie-goers who susceptible to nightmares. Some of Burton’s creations here are pretty scary and downright creepy!)

Me, I plan on going several times more, because there are so many things happening that I know I missed some things, and I want to see what else I can find. For instance, (and again it may just be me), I saw a wonderful homage to the all time great master of stop motion photography, Ray Harryhausen (a couple of times). But in particular there is one special time/scene in the movie that I simply have to see again!

MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN is a peculiar story done by a peculiar director for peculiar people...like me!

Grade: 
4.0 / 5.0