By Michael Kaye
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Review)
Happy October everyone! What better way to kick off one of my favorite months of the year than with the latest movie from visionary director Tim Burton. I don't think I've ever had more conflicting thoughts about any filmmaker than I do for Burton. The movies of his that I love are some of my absolute favorites, but the ones that I hate are on the polar opposite list. So where will his latest film fall? Find out in my review for Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, based on the YA novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs.
Here's the story. When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.
You have no idea how badly I wanted to love this one, and when this movie is good, it's REALLY good. But unfortunately this was not exactly the big comeback I was hoping for. Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the cast is great. A lot of people seem to be giving Asa Butterfield crap for not emoting enough, but I thought he was fine. Eva Green was fantastic as the titular Miss Peregrine. If she's being groomed to be Burton's next muse á la Helena Bonham Carter, you will not hear me complain. Samuel L. Jackson chews every bit of scenery he has as the main antagonist Mr. Barron, the leader of these immortal human creatures called the Wights. Throughout the course of the film, he disguises himself as Jacob's psychiatrist Dr. Golan, played by Allison Janey, and some unnamed ornithologist played by Rupert Everett. Other great performances include Terrance Stamp as Jake's grandfather Abe, Ella Purnell as Emma Bloom, one of the peculiars, and Judi Dench as Miss Esmeralda Avocet, a fellow Ymbrynes from the Victorian era seeking refuge in 1943.
The first act and the third act are easily the strongest parts of the film, and that's because it feels the most like Tim Burton going back to what made his earlier films such memorable classics. I really liked the set up involving time loops that protect the peculiars from those hollowgasts. Also, the design of the creatures look amazing! I have to believe that part of Mr. Barron's design was inspired by Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and had this movie come out in the late 80's, that would have been two villains in a row haunting children's nightmares for ages.
As far as the costume design is concerned, I have to give major props to Colleen Atwood, who's been one of Burton's frequent collaborators since Edward Scissorhands. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to hear work on films such as Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Big Fish, as well as shows like Arrow and Supergirl. It's people like her who play a big part in transporting audiences to a whole new world, or in this case, different time periods.
The last positive I have goes to the music, surprisingly enough NOT composed by Danny Elfman. No, this time Burton enlisted the help of Michael Higham and Matthew Margeson, best known for films such as Sweeny Todd, Big Eyes and Kick-Ass 2 and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Higham has worked closely with Elfman in the past, which is how he and Margeson were able to imitate his style almost perfectly. Like, if I didn't tell you who the composers were, you would probably just assume it was Elfman the whole time.
This is my least favorite part of the review, where I have to talk about the negatives, and there are quite a few things wrong with this movie, most of which happen in the second act.
First off, is there even a second act of this movie? I don't want to say that Jane Goldman is a bad writer, but of all the films she's worked on in the past, such as X-Men: First Class, Stardust and Kingsman: The Secret Service, she was working right alongside Matthew Vaughn. This is the first time since The Woman in Black where she's the sole writer of the screenplay, and unfortunately it shows. At a run-time of 2 hours and 7 minutes, the film feels both too long and too rushed at the same time, and part of the reason for that is because so much time was spent on large exposition dumps that could have been handled much better. One thing that really bugs me is when visual directors like Tim Burton forget the golden rule of filmmaking: SHOW, DON'T TELL!
Another problem that I had may not necessarily be Burton's fault, but rather just a fundamental problem that's par for the course with these YA novels, and that's the withholding of information cliché. This is just a more specific issue within my overall complaint about exposition, where the film is stuck in this awkward middle position of over explaining, yet still withholding important information.
Finally, the cliché that bugged me the most was the nonbeliever parents. Every time Jake went back to the present, it really made the film drag to a screeching holt, and as much as I enjoy seeing Chris O'Dowd on screen, he was wasted as Franklin Portman.
Overall, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is still a good movie, just not as good as I wanted it to be. I still haven't given up on Tim Burton just yet, because if a guy like Ridley Scott can make a comeback, anyone can. At the very least, I hope this movie becomes successful enough that there's interest in making this a franchise, though perhaps giving the sequels over to Matthew Vaughn or Dexter Fletcher.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Have you seen Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and if so what did you think? Also, what are some of your favorite Tim Burton movies? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next review, which is the much delayed comedy from Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess, Masterminds.