Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children,
directed by Tim Burton
(20th Century Fox, 2016)

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a tale that's right up director Tim Burton's alley. Although some elements of the book are changed for the movie, Burton preserves the overall essence of author Ransom Riggs' modern fairytale of an unusual guardian and her equally unusual charges.

It's a textbook case of the perfect marriage of subject and director, as the Gothic-style story allows Burton to indulge in his genius for the unusual and his love of world-building.

Sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman (Asa Butterfield) has always been intrigued by the extraordinary adventures of his grandfather, Abe (Terence Stamp), whose time with a mysterious foster family during World War II is recorded in a lovingly kept collection of photographs that appear to be too bizarre to be real. The family, cared for by the charismatic Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), is made up of children who -- if the photographs are accurate -- possess superhuman abilities. The loss of the foster home and its occupants in a bombing was a tragedy from which Abe never recovered. When Jake witnesses the murder of his grandfather by an actual monster, he realizes the family of peculiar children was real. Looking for answers to his grandfather's death, Jake follows a trail of clues leading back to the ruins of the home in Wales.

There Jake discovers a time loop that takes him back to 1943, on the day leading up to the moment when the foster home will be bombed by German planes, a fate the children escape by jumping through the loop to the day before, something they have done every day since it first happened. As if that isn't enough, the same monsters that murdered Jake's grandfather are now hunting down Miss Peregrine's charges, in order to feed off their powers. Thus begins an adventure that goes back and forth through time.

The novel is itself a visually stunning feat in terms of its blending of photography and text to form a beautifully illustrated fantasy that reads like a cross between the Addams family and Charles Xavier's school for budding X-Men. Burton keeps the film in high gear with a suitably dream-like imagistic feast built from gorgeously shot film and brilliant CGI.

The underwater scene is simply stunning, as is the climactic skeleton battle. Samuel L. Jackson is campy fun as the bad guy, and top marks go to Stamp and Green. While the story is dark and spooky, there's a healthy infusion of counterbalancing humor. It's a well-realized vision from a superb director and an enjoyable watch from beginning to end.

review by
Mary Harvey

11 February 2017

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new