When Jacob ‘Jake’ Portman (Asa Butterfield) finds clues that break the barriers of time and space, he finds a house called Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. But the plot thickens when he’s thrust into an adventure of wonder, danger and mystery as he gets to know Pecuilars (the children) as they are called. They are people with special powers who exercise gifts that have no place in the outside world. It’s no secret that those who are different strike fear into those who are “normal”. Jacob discovers that his own peculiarity can save his new friends from those who will do them harm. This is a story about weirdness, peculiarity and facing your fears but also combating normality.
Asa Butterfield (Hugo) plays Jake, a solitary Floridan adolescent who is close to his eccentric granddad Abe (Terence Stamp). He becomes fixated on his grandfather’s childhood school, in Wales called Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. Jake travels to Wales with his bird-watching father, played by Chris O’Dowd (Girls) to find this house, unknowingly to daddy dearest who just wants to photograph birds for his novel. In 2016, the Victorian Gothic house is in ruins as it had a bomb dropped on it in 1943, where in that time it’s in a continuous time loop of one day. The Pecuilars are being hunted by the wraith-like Hollows, figure-headed by a spooky-looking Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained).
This movie is what occurs when Tim Burton directs the X-Men. Miss Peregrine’s school for gifted youngsters is a fantastical science fiction adventure from Tim Burton (Alice In Wonderland) and adapted by Jane Goldman based on the 2011 novel by Ransom Riggs. It’s a very good time-travel mystery with the aura of 1910 novel The Secret Garden and the Gaiman dark fantasy book Coraline with a little of Enid Blyton’s classic Famous Five added into the mix. Our first look at Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) is with her answering her door while smoking a pipe, very like 20th century novelist J.R.R. Tolkien.
In this era of superhero movies and powered people, this flick is the latest addition to the assortment of stories depicting people with gifts who afraid to go out into the world because of society’s intolerance towards ones who don’t fit in. But these gifted beings’ powers aren’t your typical powered people. Their gifts are truly peculiar with such abilities like: air control, exhaling bees and reanimating corpses and dead things in a fashion that the great Mary Shelley would be proud of. After a turn of events in America, Jake finds himself face to face with campy Eva Green as Miss Peregrine in 1943 Wales, dressed in a fashion that only the Penny Dreadful alumni could rock.
This movie is Groundhog Day meets X-Men with monsters that look like they came out of a Stephen King novel or straight off the set of Netflix’s Stranger Things or even a Guillermo Del Toro picture. This is a film that I certainly wouldn’t show to young children as there are many scenes that would even make the grown ups shiver. This all comes through Burton’s murky and translucent lens of classic Tim Burton weirdness. If you thought this was a family movie, you are very much mistaken. This is also a movie that won’t sit well with many since it is Tim Burton and he has a knack for the unorthodox as we saw with Alice In Wonderland, Alice Through The Looking Glass, Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd and many more.
Like Zack Snyder, Tim Burton has developed a reputation for making films for himself. I have a feeling that Ransom Riggs wrote the young adult novel somehow knowing that Tim Burton would turn it into a movie one day. This is type of project that is weird, quirky and oddball enough for the Burton-treatment. After thirty years in the game, this is very much an eccentric film worthy of Burton’s reputation. Despite being set in the thick of the Second World War, this flick is infested with CGI special effects with the action and creatures that come into play but there also examples of wonderful period set pieces and amazingly quirky hair designs as we see with Eva Green and Ella Purnell in their respective roles. The costumes were also very good and they really sucked me in.
Filled with great performances and an interesting narrative with monsters that go bump in the night, this is certainly a film worth watching in the cinema. It is a family film, I just wouldn’t take children under ten years old to watch it. All in all, a great film that shows us that we must face our fears and with a little self-belief, we can vanquish the greatest of foes.