Review: Peculiarity is one constant element that appears in all Tim Burton’s filmography. Visual wonders, quirky characters and even the whole Burton-esque onscreen world are vivid examples. No wonder when Ransom Rigg’s 2011 young adult novel of eclectic peculiarity –Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – released, there’s only one name to be associated with, should the book gets a movie adaptation: Burton himself.
For this recent tenure, expect less Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter, because Mr. Burton has found someone with a recent ‘peculiar’ status via an elusive performance in Penny Dreadful, Eva Green. She takes the saddle of the titular character – a caretaker to a group of special, rejected kids. She is a crossover of a darker and more wicked Mary Poppins and Professor X; and she has to protect her ‘peculiar children’ which might look like X-Men from the World War II.
Apparently, Miss Peregrine can transform into… a peregrine falcon; but that’s not all. She’s an Ymbryne and she’s in charge to protect the peculiars from any danger; therefore, she creates a time loop out of 24 hours of a safe day in 1943 so that all her children might be safe. The loop repeats for 70 years when a villainous Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson) comes and hunts Miss Peregrine and attempts to destroy the loop.
Hope comes when a young man from the present day – with a past connection to the loop – comes. The boy, Jake (Asa Butterfield), comes to the titular hopes in aftermath of his grandfather’s death. Fate is what brings Jake there and only fate that could save him and the other children, too.
Miss Peregrine has either revealed most the fun when the trailers were released or within first 30 minutes entering the movie. Yet, who could resist adoring all those peculiar children – from a girl who doesn’t have weight, a girl whose touches might burn, an invisible boy, a girl with two mouths, a boy who can project his dreams, and other quirks? In Burton’s vision, they look even more special.
Shot on location with Burton-esque details in settings, costumes and production designs, the whole Miss Peregrine is a captivating visual bonanza. The design and powers of each character is also depicted in awe-striking details. The script – written by Jane Goldman, whose penchant for peculiarity is known for X-Men First Class and Kick Ass – accommodates the quirks into the center of attention in accordance to Burton’s fondness to them.
While it is peculiar in two standards: Burton’s and Goldman’s; it is surprisingly felt too colorful and less dark compared to Burton’s other films. Burton seems to reserve his gothic horror nature to some extent as he tries to have fun with the overly complicated middle act. While involving a time-travel storyline, which might not be understood in one or two casual explanation, Burton surprisingly neglects the impact of it. Horror of World War II is simply toned down and the amazement of 21st century coming back in time is neglected as well.
One problem that embarks in Miss Peregrine is the uneven storytelling and under-developed plot. It takes time to get into the fun-mode (read: to get to the titular house), when Jake finally gets there, it again takes time to introduce peculiar characters along with their ability and how they use it. It hasn’t properly introduced the concept of the time-loop when the villain comes (and requires another introduction and motivation).
Clocked in at approximately an hour and a quarter when the main conflict is manifested on screen, Miss Peregrine has already run out of gas. The third act is overwhelming and the climax is oversimplifying as if the whole story is already over-stuffed.
While the title contains her name and Eva Green has depicted her at the finest fashion, Miss Peregrine isn’t really a spotlight at all. Her screen time is limited and her impact isn’t as tactful as expected; she’s merely a protector and partially guide. Even, her impact to the protagonist isn’t half as important as Terrence Stamp’s character. Thing is, our protagonist is bland.
Some sub-plots are either under-developed and/or simplified, especially entering the third act. There were references to other loops aside from Miss Peregrine’s, and there’s even a character from other loop appearing on screen; but there’s no real impact on storytelling. Jake’s love-interest sub-plot is a part of this, too.
In the end, Miss Peregrine could still emanate Burton-esque peculiarity along with Jane Goldman’s penchant of the same things. It has all the peculiar characters, peculiar visual and peculiar story-telling; however, it is weighed down by its uneven story-tellin and under-developed plot.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Adaptation Directed by: Tim Burton Written by: Jane Goldman based on a book by Ransom Riggs Starred by: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench Runtime: 127 mins Rated PG-13