-A porous plot and bland universe keep Miss Peregrine from being even remotely meaningful in the teen fiction genre.
It’s a much complained about topic on this site, but the tiresome genre of teen fiction continues to permeate our blockbuster movie scene in an attempt to recreate the magic of series’ like “Harry Potter” or “Twilight.” Based on a best-selling novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is another notch in the ever disappointing belt that is young adult storytelling.
It’s directed by Tim Burton, whose filmography would be very kind to a movie about weird, secluded youth who live in complete isolation honing their unique abilities. He’s the perfect director to try to add flair into this story. Perhaps it was corporate meddling, or perhaps it’s just that Burton is beginning to lose his touch, but this didn’t feel at all like a film directed with the flair of normal Burton. It’s closer to Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows than it is to an Edward Scissorhands or Sweeney Todd.
The story revolves around Jake (Asa Butterfield), an everyday teenager without a particular flair for adventure or action. He grew up worshiping his grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp), who would tell him odd tales about his adventures with people who had special powers and lived under one roof together. Although Grandpa’s stories should always be taken with a grain of salt, Jake’s world changes forever when he comes home to his grandpa being dead, and he clearly sees some sort of supernatural creature who did the deed. His overprotective parents (Chris O’Dowd and Kim Dickens) set him up with a local counselor (Allison Janney) and try to assume that it’s just a mental health issue.
In order to receive closure, Jake and his dad head to island that his Grandpa said contained the house with all of the special kids, to which Jake heads through a time warp and discovers that all of the peculiar children are sheltered by Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) who resets the same day over and over again to protect the kids from the evil peculiars, who have a desire to consume good peculiar’s eyes to return back to their normal human shape. They are run by Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), and Jake gets tangled in the new world he was just exposed to.
The film is a bit like a bad cross between Harry Potter and X-Men, where there are enough characters to stop a good bit of character development for secondary players, but there’s enough surrealism to warrant constant explanation of the rules in the universe. Most of Jake’s scenes are listening to people telling him factual information, while we get a severely underused outside cast because of the focus on world-building. Actors like Eva Green, Terence Stamp, Judi Dench, Kim Dickens, and Allison Janney are given very little to work with, not to mention that Samuel L. Jackson’s villain is a bit of an abomination.
The constant exposition scenes grind the film’s pace to a halt, and the film has a really hard problem staying constantly mystical and intriguing. It has its moments, sure, but for the most part, just feels like another bland entry in the teen fiction genre. All of Burton’s love for dark whimsy is absent here, and the final product is one that is much too bright and silly for the kind of themes that it wants to take on. The monsters and violence is supposed to be an occasional dark shock, but instead of creating a mature, but still youthful, story, the result is a fabricated mess of cliches, overindulgent information, and lack of vision for what the final product should look like. The small moments of really cool film-making are just a rude reminder of what could’ve been.
Finally, the third act really heads off the rails, where the final combat scene is among the worst of the year. It turned from messy to unwatchable pretty quickly right at the time where an illogical scene with a boat happens (if you see the movie, you may know what I’m talking about). Some occasionally good moments between Jake and his love interest Emma (Ella Purnell) or moments where Burton’s vision shines throw make this above a complete disaster, but I wouldn’t come close to recommending it, regardless of your age.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
Director: Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Ed Wood, Sweeney Todd, Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride)
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Terence Stamp, Chris O’Dowd, and Samuel L. Jackson
with: Ella Purnell, Lauren McCrostie, Finlay MacMillan, Milo Parker, and Judi Dench
and: Allison Janney, Kim Dickens, and Rupert Everett
RT Score: 64%
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