“Miss Peregrine’s” Welcomes Back Tim Burton To Form, About Damn Time!!!

By Scott Kurland
Film: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children
Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris O’Dowd, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, and Terence Stamp
Rated: PG-13
Director: Tim Burton

Excuse my language as I start off this review but, Tim Burton, where the HELL have you been? Ten years ago you adapted “Sweeney Todd” beautifully. Before that you were on fire with “Big Fish”, “Corpse Bride”, and “Sleepy Hollow”. However, over the last ten years you've created one bad interpretation after another with “Alice in Wonderland” and then “Dark Shadows.” I still don't know what either was trying to achieve. You started to show promise again with “Frankenweenie,” as bizarre as it was. Then, two years ago, you made “Big Eyes” and I honestly thought we lost you forever. This week’s film is Tim Burton’s “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children”. Let’s find out if it’s any good shall we?

In “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” Asa Butterfield stars as Jake, an ordinary boy living in boring old Florida. Jake's life consists of working at a Walmat-esque store and creating elaborate toilet paper displays. To put it bluntly, hes an outsider. After getting a cryptic message from his grandfather (Terence Stamp), Jake and his father Frank (Chris O’Dowd) must head to the Island of Wales to search for the mysterious and kind-hearted Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). What Jake discovers is that Miss Peregrine does in fact exist, and the stories his grandfather told him are real. Miss Peregrine and her peculiar children are protected by a never-ending time loop, one that is continuously under threat from dark forces seeking to destroy them. Now Jake must step up to the the plate and fight the mysterious and evil Barron (Samuel L. Jackson) and protect the school.

This film should honestly be called Tim Burton’s “X-Men.” These children all have genetic mutations, they’re lead by a highly intelligent British person and, if anyone found out they existed, there would likely be discrimination and class warfare. I feel like those similarities would be off putting to the outside observer, but I actually found it clever. This film is based on a book series of the same name, but I am told that the title is where the similarities end. The film is vastly different from the books, but in a good way. This is why Tim Burton is great. When it comes to adapting books or screen stories, Burton is king. When Burton has an outline to go on,  like “Sleepy Hollow” or “Mars Attack,” he’s amazing. When he remakes films, (i.e. “Alice In Wonderland” , “Dark Shadows”, and “Planet of the Apes”) he fails horribly. 

A film like this calls for Burton’s expertise because he borrows his own style. There’s elements of “Edward Scissorhands”, “Ed Wood”, and “Big Fish” in “Miss Peregrine’s” and I think that’s why the film is as strong as it is. The screenplay by Jane Goldman writer of “Kick-Ass”, “X-Men: First Class”, and “Kingsman” doesn’t hurt either. The story does feel recycled, but that’s ok because of how it is executed. There’s things that could have been better, like the final battle scene, but you can look past that because Burton pays Homage to Ray Harryhausen with a hybrid of stop motion and CGI. What ever faults there are with this film, you instantly forget about them with the amount of heart and joy Burton brings to the screen.

All the performances in this film are decent. That said, if you truly think about the acting in a Tim Burton action/fantasy film, its never truly 100%. There are exceptions like “Ed Wood”, but for the most part, actors like Johnny Depp and now Samuel L. Jackson chew the scenery. Jackson is incredibly entertaining and over-the-top, and Green is perfect as the darker Mary Poppins that is Miss Peregrine. All the performances are good. With that said, it’s still super weird when you have two talented actors from the United Kingdom, like  Asa Butterfield and Chris O’Dowd, and they are given American accents. On top of which, you have Terrence Stamp as their Grandfather and Father respectively who is supposed to be Polish, yet he comes with a thick British accent. This is pointless. Just make them all Brits and explain it with one line of dialog. That, in my opinion, would give O’Dowd and Butterfield more range.

I want to take a minute and talk about Terrence Stamp because, for me, he was one of the treasures of this movie. His role was clearly written for Burton regular Christopher Lee, but sadly, Lee died two years ago when the script was being workshopped. This is the first time we see Stamp in the role of a truly good and heroic fatherly character and he does the best work of his career. I wish Stamp would get more parts like this because I knew deep down inside General ZOD there was a big teddy bear waiting to burst out.

“Miss Pergrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” is just the movie to get us to Marvel movie season in November. It’s also a really dark kids film, and we haven’t a good dark live-action family film since “Hocus Pocus”. The only problem with this film is they added an unnecessary scene of the bad guys eating children’s eyes to get that MPAA PG-13. We needed a dark PG movie, and it drives me crazy that studios see a PG rating as a childish kiss of death. I’ll remind you “Raiders of The Lost Ark”, “Labyrinth” and “The Goonies” are all PG and they’re classics. “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” is a great family film, and Tim Burton’s best in over a decade. At times it’s perplexing, but for the most part this is a nice little welcome back to form. I recommend this movie for an afternoon matinee or, if you want to wait, it’s a nice rainy day rental.

scott kurlandComment