Overview: A young boy journeys to a children’s home to come to terms with the unusual death of his grandfather only to discover that the bedtime stories he was told as a boy we were fictional. Based on the 2011 novel by Ransom Riggs. 2016; 20th Century Fox; Rated PG-13; 127 minutes.
Bizarre: Over the years, Tim Burton’s films have often found themselves under fire for lacking in depth and overflowing with outlandish visuals, often bordering on the bizarre. Burton’s signature, quirky style sometimes sacrifices the content for the cover. Sometimes subtlety works with his films, such is the case with 2014’s Big Eyes, but about half the time his mixture of live action and exaggerated, gothic animation doesn’t blend with the messages the films are trying to send. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, however, almost completely succeeds in striking the balance between the real world and, well, the peculiar one.
Peculiar: Jake, the story’s protagonist, is a specific sort of Peculiar who can walk unnoticed through both worlds, seamlessly fitting in to both the “normal” and the peculiar, and for the most part the audience is capable of transitioning between the two just as easily. The only time the film stumbles in this area is during one of the climactic battles when the Hollows battle a group of reanimated skeletons that closely resembles a chaotic, cartoonish scene from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The scene is a necessary confrontation between the colossal, eyeless creatures and the children, and the use of the skeletons provides Enoch with the ability to use his peculiarity for good, but the alarming shift from the semi-realistic mood of the film up until that point is abrupt and distracting.
Different: Aside from this minor, distracting blip, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a home run adaptation of unique take on the “children with abilities” young adult sub genre that has never faded from popularity over the years. This story penned by Riggs is one that combines equal parts creepy and comedy, creating a sense of wonderment that is occasionally tipped with fear. Above all, the importance of the message this story sends young adults on learning to take what some perceive as flaws and view them to be strengths is as clear and relevant as ever, and Burton conveys this message beautifully.
Strong: No review of this film could be complete without recognizing its stellar cast. Eva Green is absolutely magnetic as Miss Peregrine, exuding both mystery compassion that paint her as both a fierce protector and a loving mother figure. Asa Butterfield, who has grown up in front of audience’s eyes on the silver screen, is the pitch perfect angsty teen, longing to fit in and be special all at the same time. The rest of the cast is rounded out by largely unknown actors, each one excelling at not only their peculiarity but also their ability to command and share the screen with one another. The children’s interactions with each other and Miss Peregrine make the dinner table sequence one of the best in the film.
Overall: With only a slight misstep along the way, the whimsy and occasional grimness use to send a message about celebrating our differences makes Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is one of Tim Burton’s best films in recent memory.
Featured Image: 20th Century Fox