Tim Burton has been a patron saint of the weird kids since they latched onto The Nightmare Before Christmas after it hit home video in the 90’s and they’ve never let go since. So, between this and the popularity of turning YA novels into potential film franchises, it was only a matter of time before Tim Burton got his hands involved in one of these.
I write those words and it comes across very cynical, because, while the trailers did intrigue me enough to go see the movie this weekend, it really very well could have been just that, a money grab. But I’m here to tell you, that it’s far from that. This is in fact the best visual work that Tim Burton has done in some time.
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is an adaptation of a YA book series by author Ransom Riggs. Not having been a Young Adult for quite some time I admit I was not aware of this book series prior to seeing the movie, but I’m intrigued enough by it now that I’ll definitely be adding this to my (ever increasing) list of books to read.
In the movie, Asa Butterfield (Ender’s Game) stars as Jake Portman, whose grandfather Abe (Terrence Stamp-Superman II) always told him stories of his upbringing in an orphanage for children with special abilities. As a kid he believed him, but as he grew into a teenager, Jake had no time for his grandfather’s stories. Until he returns home one day to find his grandfather having been murdered, with his eyes taken from him. This at first traumatizes him so he’s led to a therapist Dr. Golan played by Allison Janney (The West Wing) who suggests going to seek out this orphanage for closure.
So, Jake and his father Franklin (Chris O’ Dowd-The IT Crowd) go off to find this orphanage, only to discover it blew up from a Nazi bomb back in 1942. Jake soon discovers however that all his grandfather’s stories were true, and the children with strange and unsual powers did exist, just trapped in a time loop in 1942, to keep them safe from monsters called Hallowghasts, these Slenderman meets The Demogorgon from Stranger Things looking monstrosities led by the evil Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson) And soon enough after meeting the children and their headmistress Miss Peregrine (Eva Green-Casino Royale) Jake is in for the adventure of his life.
I myself really enjoyed this movie, the visuals alone are worth the price of admission, vintage Tim Burton stuff. Really my favorite thing about the movie was the look of the Hallowghasts, really cool invisible monster type stuff. And the kid’s powers are equally as cool, and the characters mostly get a chance to develop (though I’m sure you get more of that in the book version) Asa Butterfield is developing as an actor, he’s better here than he was in Ender’s Game, but still needs some work, but you can see the improvement. Samuel L Jackson is always great to have as your villain, and he chews the scenery here quite wonderfully. He’s like a notch below his performance from Kingsmen here. Added fun was had by my girlfriend and I, who added the word motherf***** after almost every line he said in the movie, which doubled the fun, but he plays a good fun bad guy.
There’s a great scene towards the climax of the movie with one of the kid’s powers reanimating an army of skeletons to combat the monsters which was quite fun as well, best use of a skeleton army since Army of Darkness, and it appeared that they were stop motion as well throwing back to the Ray Harryhausen days, but that could have been just really good cgi made to look like stop motion, but brilliant stuff nonetheless. Also, pay attention during that scene for a blink and you’ll miss it Tim Burton cameo.
If I were to have a complaint about the movie it’s that the villains are way too easily taken out. They look visually fantastic, but as enemies they’re practically cannon fodder. These big terrifying looking monsters get taken out as quickly as Goombas in a Mario game. I guess that owes something to the fact that it’s supposed to be family entertainment, but still the whole thing gets a bit anticlimactic towards the end because of how easily these monsters can be dispatched.
All in all though, Miss Peregrine’s is a great time at the movies and the best Tim Burton movie I’ve seen since Big Fish. 4 out of 5 stars **** Til next time, be sure to Keep It Reel.