The pre-movie buzz surrounding Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and the addition of director Tim Burton had fans expecting an X-Men meets Harry Potter meets Alice in Wonderland experience. It was not too long into the film that it became abundantly clear those who bought the hype were going to be sorely disappointed.
Miss Peregrine’s was a restrained Burton trying to visually carry a clunky script that sparsely uses the powers given to each of the peculiar children for which the film is named.
Based on the 2011 novel by Ransom Rigg, Miss Peregrine’s tells the story of Jacob (played by Asa Butterfield) - a 16-year-old misfit who struggles to make sense of his life after the death of his best friend and grandfather, Abe Portman (Terence Stamp), and his interaction with a group of ‘peculiars’ in their battle against the ‘hollows’ and evil-doer Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), who is literally the only non-white person to be shown on screen in the entirety of the film.
After the traumatic passing of Abe, it is Jake’s therapist, Dr. Golan (Allison Janney), who convinces his parents to let the youngster go to Wales to learn more about his elder in an attempt to gain the closure that he wouldn’t otherwise be able to find in his hometown. It is there that Jake uncovers -- like in another Burton feature film, Big Fish -- more than he intended to and realizes that his childhood bedtime stories were much more than fiction.
Armed with new friends that have special powers, Jacob fights invisible-to-everyone-else foes, and battles the disjointedly presented information from the scripting to go on a time-traveling journey that eventually will change his life.
Suffice it to say that the book is a better telling of the product.
Burton and screenwriter Jane Goldman kept certain elements from the canon, like Riggs’ use of old photographs and maps as ways for Abe to tell Jacob his seemingly tall tales of eye-ball eating monsters -- one of the few things in the movie that stand out with Burton influence -- and children with peculiar abilities. Each of the photographs, maps or books are used as clues in what amounts to a treasure hunt for Jacob through his timeline.
The movie then goes out of its way to force itself into a coming-of-age story with a romantic interest between Jacob and Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell).
On the whole, the film stayed mostly true to how Rigg wrote each character, but how they navigate the obstacles faced and the results they achieve varies from the two mediums, with the book more clearly defining itself and the movie trying less successfully to connect dots.
The highlights were in the actors, at least those who were able to rise above some limitations in storytelling.
Butterfield was easy to root for and set himself up as a young Ewan McGregor. Purnell and Stamp each gave solid performances as well.
Jackson seemed disinterested with the role and, despite cracking a few good one-liners, did not impress.
Eva Green did a solid job of filling in as she inherits the role of new “Burton muse” as Miss Alma LeFay Perigrine -- while the look and feel of the role could have been typecast for Helena Bonham Carter -- she was dark and attractive enough to command her place on the screen.
Finlay MacMilian took the antagonistic role of Enoch O’Conner and shined alongside other peculiars, Olive Elephanta (Lauren McCrostie), Horace Somnusson (Hayden Keeler-Stone), Fiona Fruanfeld (Georgia Pemberton), Milo Parker (Hugh Apiston), and Claire Densmore (Raffiella Chapman).
Overall, the two hours and seven minute experience was underwhelming with a shoulder shrug climax and more questions than answers for the bouncing timeline. It is rated PG-13, which is probably right, as it will not hold the attention of adults and has moments that are probably too intense for younger viewers.