Friday, September 30, 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Adapted from Ransom Riggs' novel of the same name, Tim Burton's latest tells the story of high school outcast named Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield) who is drawn into a mystical and macabre world following his grandfather's (Terence Stamp) death as he discovers all the childhood bedtimes stories told to him are actually based on real people and real events just waiting for Jake to find them.

As a film Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children features all the trademarks of Burton's style, although without Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter the movie feels more serious and less madcap than several of the director's more recent projects. As a story, the movie feels very much like a book (somewhat akwardly) adapted to film. The odd story moves in fits and starts introducing Jake's life prior to his grandfather's death, his psychoanalysis, and his journey to England with his father (Chris O'Dowd), before getting down to introducing Miss Peregrine (Eva Green in the role Helena Bonham Carter would usually play) and her unusual students all trapped in a time-loop in a single day during WWII where they are safe from the monsters hunting them.

The story is a bit convoluted but it boils down to this: Miss Peregrine is a bird in the shape of a woman who has made a nest of sorts for a group of children with unusual abilities (known as peculiars). Miss Peregrine's peculiar children include the the strong Bronwyn (Pixie Davies), the mouthy Claire (Raffiella Chapman), the fiery Emma (Ella Purnell), the macabre Enoch (Finlay MacMillan), the insightful Horace (Hayden Keeler-Stone), the Poison Ivy-like Fiona (Georgia Pemberton), Hugh (Milo Parker) and his bees, the invisible Millard (Cameron King), and the ethereal Olive (Lauren McCrostie). Hunting them are a mad scientist (Samuel L. Jackson) and his abominations who need ingest the eyes of peculiar children to keep what remains of their humanity.

Burton's latest is a two-hour movie that that feels at least twice that long. While not boring, the story drags in several spots which left me restless for most of the 127-minute running time. The monsters are impressive and the story introduces several odd characters with stories worth exploring, but the movie never feels as focused as it should nor does it have enough time to adequately explore the odd inhabitants of Miss Peregrine's home leading most of them to come off as nothing more than one-note characters defined by their particular peculiarities.

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