Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children – 2016
Director Tim Burton
Screenplay by Jane Goldman based on the book by Ransom Riggs
Starring Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Green, Dame Judi Dench, Chris O’Dowd, Lauren McCrostie, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Allison Janney
When we look upon this time 50 years from now, will we remember that it was Samuel L. Jackson who provided at least 30% of all entertainment we ever got from movies? Miss Peregrine…is a good movie. It’s even better when you consider Tim Burton applied most of his best sensibilities with almost none of his worst. The think that helps the story border on greatness though, is our man Sam right in the middle of it all.
The backbone of the story is not all that original. Anyone who’s seen anything from Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer through Harry Potter will recognize the aimless seemingly untalented youth that finds his place among a bevy of similarly disaffected. The execution and casting helps set this one apart from others.
Jake (Butterfield) is a young man who recently lost his Grandfather Abe. Abe told his Grandson many stories about a wonderful place where he spent his youth. He had pictures of the place, including headmistress Miss Peregrine (Green). Even so, his recollections always stood outside the realm of believability. Eventually Jake is ashamed to even think he believed in them.
The most convoluted part of the plot is getting Jake to this place. We have psychoanalysis for no particular reason, and a trip to an English Isle to get Jake over the hump. All the while, as a parent I realize my kid’s emotional well being will never be resolved through air miles.
No matter how we get there, we get to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. We find it miraculous and caught in a perpetual time loop. Reliving the same day since the day before the Luftwaffe raid in WWII. They do not age, but are able to retain their memories. These loops have allowed Miss Peregrine and her children to hide from the outside world. I will leave the rest for the viewer. Suffice to say, the best parts of the film are finding out how all of this is possible, what the children all can do and why they would need to hide.
That reason is in the form of Samuel L. Jackson, as Mr. Barron. He has vested interests that involve procuring the children and we spend much of the second half of the film finding out why. The story unfolds very comfortably, though. So interested was I in the gifts of these children, the little bits that were doled out, the fact that they are being pursued doesn’t even occur to me until it’s right on shore.
Burton’s instincts are tempered here. He’s allowed the weirdness we normally get from him, but without any of the routine “no one understands how weird I want to be” normally pushed to the forefront. Having Green in the role normally reserved for Helena Bonham Carter infests certainly helps. Ultimately we get all of the benefits of the imagination of the creators with very few of the indulgences of a director who hasn’t heard “no” when it comes to a budget since Superman Lives.
Butterfield is an extremely graceful talent. His ability to seem normal while commanding one’s attention is remarkable. I can’t recall the time I have seen him onscreen and not at least enjoyed what he was doing.
Green is good when it comes to Miss Peregrine. She exudes peculiarity as well as safety. If this were a normal Burton film, Bonham Carter would have added a touch of danger for the children. It would have thrown everything off, so I am happy Burton selected her for the role.
This is not to say there was no danger present for our protagonist and his friends. The people that are snatched off of the screen come at surprising times and for this viewer and his 10 year old daughter, the food of choice for the antagonists is excruciating to ponder.
Burton’s choice of Bruno Delbonnel for cinematography is a winner. His palette exudes a warmth and refreshing greens and yellows to contrast with the colder colors of Jake’s reality outside of the Home. Big Eyes notwithstanding, Burton should continue working with Delbonnel in the future.
For those looking for an effective story to share with their children, you will find it here. My daughter Ellie hates sitting through movies. She didn’t move a whit through this one. It had her attention throughout. As a parent, I felt comfortable with the messages and the tone. You want your kids to know that there is danger in the world. This film is wise enough to let the adults duck out just in time for the kids to solve the dangerous riddles together.
(**** out of *****)