TIM BURTON HITS ONE TO LEFT FIELD
Film Review by Fiore
Tim Burton must be very fond of Guillermo Del Toro. There is a plethora of nods to him in Burton’s latest work, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. These include creatures with extended appendages and Doug Jones manners; fanciful elements based on a child’s imagination; and world’s within worlds.
Burton is certainly no stranger to the bizarre and macabre, but this film may reach boundaries heretofore unsought. It is so far in left field it will seem silly to anyone with a linear sense of logic. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children seems destined to find a small, but very loyal cult following, and then rest comfortably in that niche.
Although the film is only two hours, it felt like an eternity wading through a convoluted plot that would have Commander Data and Geordi LaForge baffled. It’s not that the story is bad, because it isn’t. The film boasts solid stars including Eva Green, who is devilishly delicious and Samuel L. Jackson, who is demonic yet amusing, like his character in The Spirit. Special effects are in top form and incorporate a gamut of proven techniques. No, what goes terribly wrong with this film is how it is assembled.
The first half of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children moves slower than continental plates. I realize an entire alter-universe must be introduced, but really, Burton is better than this at ushering in the weird. Even the younger actors, like Asa Butterfield, Ella Purnell, Finlay MacMillan, Lauren McCrostie and Hayden Keeler-Stone have difficulty keeping their bearings in the first half. Their performances are stifled and forced.
Thankfully, the movie gains momentum when the protagonists battle Mr. Barron and the Hollowghasts, but then it draws on a conclusion that so bends the concept of the time-space continuum, that one leaves the theatre knowing they saw something conclusive, but are not quite sure how it transpired.
Jacob (Butterfield) is the typical class nerd, never fitting into the social strata of his high school. As common with these types of movies, he is odd because he is peculiar, meaning he has a power or ability far beyond those of mortal men. He just needs an outlet to channel his uniqueness. That channel occurs when Abraham Portman, his beloved grandfather, played by Terrance Stamp, dies, leaving him with a riddle, which begins a quest. The quest takes him to a time-loop universe where he discovers the alluring Miss Peregrine (Green) and her school filled with others like him. But this universe is under siege by the evil Mr. Barron (Jackson) who, together with his cadre of creatures, seek immortality at the cost of all else. Jacob’s one power, combined with those of his new friends, maybe the only way to stop the destruction.
KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. THE PIER
2. EMMA’S SECRET PLACE
3. THE TIME LOOP
I like Tim Burton films, even the ones that aren’t particularly good. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children features the moody, dark lighting and camerawork, like Sleepy Hollow, Edward Scissorhands and Batman, that is his trademark. He also incorporates stop motion photography, which he became acclimated to in The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. It is a technique made famous by special effect wizard Ray Harryhausen, who Burton emulated. In fact, during the battle of the pier, Burton plays homage to his mentor by recreating the skeleton warriors made famous in Jason and the Argonauts and the Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.
If you can wade through the film’s first hour, the conclusion will compensate you for your patience. Blame editor Chris Lebenzon for slowing this down too much in the beginning, and Burton for allowing him to do it.
While Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children will make for an interesting evening out, it is not a movie I would readily sit through again.
THE GRADE FOR MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN = C