UK Release Date: 29th September 2016
Runtime: 127 minutes
Director: Tim Burton
Writer: Jane Goldman
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Ella Purnell, Eva Green, Samuel L Jackson, Terence Stamp, Chris O’Dowd, Allison Janney, Judi Dench
Synopsis: A boy becomes embroiled in the world of youngsters with unusual peculiarities, who are hunted by a group of evil people who want to harvest them and eat their eyeballs.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the latest curious journey into the cinematic world of Tim Burton. It features unusual teenagers, in a bizarre house, doing strange things, yet unfortunately the most memorable thing this movie achieved was provoking me to search synonyms for the word peculiar.
While its initial premise – a teenage boy discovers a house of children with abnormal abilities who live in a time warp to protect themselves from Samuel L Jackson, who wants to eat their eyes – doesn’t exactly lend itself to being an instant classic, it at least gives you enough to think it could be entertaining. Teen-orientated book adaptations are littered with efforts that, while not particularly memorable, are at least fun while you’re watching them. Measured by that standard however, Peregrine fails on almost every level. It’s not crafted with any degree of effort that lends you to believe that Burton, who is on remarkably bland form, is enjoying himself, and the rather anaemic teen cast do little to engage you with the film’s drawn out plot.
Asa Butterfield does the best he can with the lead character, Jake, but he struggles to lift poor dialogue beyond its level. Eva Green‘s first scene as the titular Miss Peregrine is the liveliest moment in the movie’s first act, but that appears to be a one-off as she also succumbs like the rest of the cast into fading into the background – a remarkable feat given that the film is named after her.
Only special films can be two hours long and not feel too long, or too short. However, Peregrine manages to achieve feeling both. Its first hour and 10 minutes is a slog through exposition known to anyone who watched a trailer, and even then it dwells on its points for far too long. This is occasionally broken up with petty teen drama that doesn’t lead anywhere. Perhaps its biggest crime is making a collection of anomalous children boring, where they should be funny. A running joke about a boy who is invisible walking around naked is delivered with all the joy of a jury service letter, while the blossoming love story is relegated to a series of longing looks, improbable leaps of character and little interesting dialogue.
After this slow process finally concludes, and the bits that count kick in, such as the small matter of explaining time travel, the storytellers become remarkably glib about explaining themselves. Jane Goldman, writing alone without regular partner Matthew Vaughn, fails to produce a script up to her usual standard. We’ve been spoiled by screenplays like Kick-Ass and Kingsman, both of which are littered with fascinating action sequences and laugh-out-loud comedy, neither of which appear here.
There is potential. The villains are interesting and carry a very menacing look and edge. The final set piece on Blackpool Pier also has the potential to be an entertaining sequence that lifted the movie out of the hollow monotone it had drifted into, but again it suffers from a lack of energy and desire to make it genuinely interesting. For a director who usually packs so much into the look and feel of his films that the story is the most likely suffer, this packs the double punch of being both bland to look at and bland to listen to.
Pop or Poop?
The ridiculously named Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is not the most offensively bad movie of the year, but it might be the biggest culprit of taking something different and making it a two-hour slog that you will not only forget, you will be happy to wave it goodbye.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.