Spoilers ahead! Originally a book by Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, directed by Tim Burton is a story about a home for children with extraordinary powers.
Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield) is an American teenager who just saw his grandfather (Terence Stamp) die. The police believe the cause to be wild dogs, although Jake remains unconvinced mainly because his eyes were missing. His grandfather’s dying wish was for Jake to go to Wales and visit a children’s school he attended in his youth, which would provide Jake with a lot of answers – answers to questions like “what was with all those oddball bedtime stories you told me when I was younger, grandpa?” Jake convinces his father (Chris O’Dowd) to take a trip to Wales to visit the school, only to learn it was bombed out in World War 11.
Or, it just looks that way. Jake goes back a second time only to find it looking very much intact. All of its residents are alive, too. He knew all of them from the aforementioned stories. This is a school for ‘peculiars’ – those with unexplainable powers. It’s run by Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and kept in a time loop, which means that every day the clock resets by 24 hours, keeping the school and its inhabitants ageless.
That’s a complicated enough setup, and it takes the film a long time to fully explain it, too. I’m still not sure it completely did, either. But the main points get through. There’s also a villain (Samuel L. Jackson) who has tentacle-monster bodyguards who need to eat the eyes of the children to look like humans again. After all of the necessary exposition, we get an abbreviated “run and then fight” sequence followed by the credits.
With all that said and done, the book itself seems to have been the perfect screenplay for Tim Burton to direct in. While everything from the acting to the scenes scream BURTON, the movie in itself belong more towards the genre of dark fantasy, and I myself would not recommend it to younger children.
As an adaptation of a recent best-selling novel with similarities to the Harry Potter series, ‘Peregrine’ has Burton-friendly fantasy elements. But it is an unusual entry in his work. His similar efforts usually were coming more iconic established starting points – Batman, Dark Shadows, Planet of the Apes, Sleepy Hollow – rather than previously un-filmed stories.
Miss Peregrine though a popular book is hardly iconic. In fact, the marketing, appropriately tried to replicate the Potter success. With series author JK Rowling returning with the much-anticipated ‘Fantastic Beasts’ and ‘Where To Find Them’, next month, this earlier date was crucial.
But the results, $28.5 million, are nothing special compared to similar PG or PG-13 family fantasy films. The derided (and Burton-produced) ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ opened to only slightly less (just under $27 million). Fox’s own ‘Maze Runner’ films, both early fall releases managed over $30 million – and combined cost less than Peregrine.
The title may read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, but there can be no doubt for anyone buying a ticket: This is really Tim Burton’s Home for Peculiar Children. Not since Sweeney Todd, and before that all the way back to Sleepy Hollow, have the studios found such a perfect match of material for Hollywood’s most iconic auteur.
Perhaps it’s all a little bit too familiar for those who’ve been following Burton since the beginning. Although the director repeats more than he innovates this time around, for younger audiences, the film makes a terrific introduction to his blue-hued, forever-Halloween aesthetic. It’s clearly also an excuse for him to work with Green again after Dark Shadows, and rather than leaving audiences with the icky feeling that he’s twisting his leading lady to fit his admittedly kooky sensibility (as seemed to happen with Helena Bonham Carter and Lisa Marie), he appears to have met his match in Green. The already-outré Penny Dreadful star walks that razor-fine line between dignity and camp perhaps better than any other current actress — making for a partnership we can only hope to see continue.