By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a very long title. Let’s just say Miss Peregrine for now. Tim Burton’s latest and probably his best in recent years is a beautiful and sometimes nightmarish fairy tale that is captivating from start to finish, but does become a little confusing, especially towards the finale.
Based on the bestselling young adult novel by Ransom Riggs, we follow the story of Jake (Asa Butterfield), a gloomy teenager obsessed with discovering the truth about his grandfather’s secretive past. Jake takes his investigation to a small island off the coast of Wales where he meets the mysterious Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), and a band of children with very unusual abilities, all of whom are living in a hidden time loop. Trouble ensues when a group of rather ghoulish-looking monsters, and their leader Barron (Samuel L. Jackson with white contact lenses), attempt to hunt them all down in order to steal their….
Like all Tim Burton films, this one is ultra-pleasing to look out. I felt that Burton had a lot of free reign to imprint himself and his own upbringing onto the character of Jake. The glossy and camp houses of Jake’s Florida neighbourhood (think the houses in Edward Scissorhands and Mars Attacks!) were no doubt inspired by Burton’s own upbringing in sunny California. The dark and misty Welsh island reminded me of Sleepy Hollow or even Sweeney Todd, which was probably the last critically praised Burton movie. The film also has a circus freak kind of feel that reminded me a bit of penguin’s lair in Batman Returns. I just dropped a lot of film titles there… What I basically want to say is, this film is all shades of Burton.
The plot was also all shades of Burton, but maybe one too many shades? What began as a reasonably comprehensible introduction to Jake and the peculiar children soon became a bit confusing because of the whole time loop thing, not to mention that there seemed to be a slight confusion as to what kind of audience to aim at. Was he trying to please kids, adults or Burton fans that were craving a bit of horror? The dialogue was at times quite simple and childish, but those monsters could scare a grown man. Whether you’re a horror fan or not, the ‘hollows’ are worth seeing on the big screen. Creepy as fuck. I really loved them.
The cast is also successfully creepy. Samuel L. Jackson is terrifying, but absolutely hilarious when his character finally gets going. Eva Green brings a motherly pipe-smoking charm to the house as Miss Peregrine, and Asa Butterfield does the awkward dressed-in-black teenager quite well – I wouldn’t be surprised if he pops up in future Burton films as he blends into the universe so well.
Overall, a very watchable Burton film. Much more than recent efforts.