Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Director - Tim Burton
Cast - Asa Butterfield, Ella Purnell, Eva Green, Chris O’Dowd, Terence Stamp, Judi Dench
Rating - 3/5
Remember when the arrival of a new Tim Burton film brought with it mystery and excitement and curiosity and wonder? It used to be an event; people used to look forward to it. Remember the days of Batman, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood? Well, neither do I, but I’ve heard the stories.
The peculiarly named Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children arrives with the fanfare of a poorly attended funeral — and this is going to be its undoing, because once you move beyond its utter lack of buzz, Miss Peregrine is really quite an enjoyable movie. It isn’t prime Tim Burton. It’s more of a Tim Burton cosplaying as Tim Burton. But in its own weird way, it might be one of the most personal movies he’s made in his entire career.
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Jake (Asa Butterfield) is, like so many Burton heroes, an outcast, and like so many Burton heroes, a surrogate for the famously wonky director. Through these characters, Burton lives out the dreams of his youth. Jake grew up on the magical tales his grandfather told him, of the mysterious Welsh manor where children with peculiar abilities live under the wing of their headmistress Miss Peregrine (Eva Green).
Jake dreams of finding his way to Miss Peregrine’s home one day, for his grandfather, and for his sanity. And when he does, it sets into motion a fantastic story, with time travel, beautiful visuals, grand music and engaging characters.
The surreal imagination, the gothic imagery and the general sense of weirdness are what define Burton. Miss Peregrine, with its gothic production design, grotesque stop motion animation and spindly monsters, seems like a perfect match for the director — but then again, so did Alice in Wonderland; but unlike Alice — in which an unrestrained Burton crumbed under the weight of weightless CGI, Miss Peregrine is a much more intimate movie.
Like Harry Potter, a series with which it shares many similarities, Miss Peregrine is essentially a coming of age film.
And speaking of Harry Potter, we must address the Hippogriff in the room. To put it simply, Miss Peregrine has enough nods to both Harry Potter and X-Men (it is written by Jane Goldman, who wrote the excellent X-Men: First Class) to qualify as a weirder, edgier remake. Depending on your taste in movies, this will either be that final nudge you needed to get you intrigued enough to watch this film, or it will become just another reason for you to continue ignoring it.
Perhaps it’s simply a case of tempered expectations, which is the sad reality of our relationship to Tim Burton these days, but it just might have worked in Miss Peregrine’s favour.
But here’s the deal: A few weeks ago, I ranted against everyone for rejecting Steven Spielberg’s The BFG. And once again, here we are: Another great filmmaker being treated with indifference. This is unacceptable. Because Miss Peregrine is Burton retreating into his safe space. This is his comfort zone; the same comfort zone where he used to isolate himself as a kid, the same comfort zone where he cultivated his imagination. So let him be. God knows he’s earned it.