Thursday, October 6, 2016

Movie Review #496: "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" (2016)

Movie"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"
Director: Tim Burton
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes
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An outcast named Jake (Asa Butterfield) joins Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and her peculiar children in an effort to fend off an evil peculiar known as Barron (Samuel L. Jackson) and his Hollows, who feed on the eyes of other peculiars in an effort to regain human form and eventually achieve immortality.

"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" is directed by Tim Burton with a screenplay by Jane Goldman. It is based on a novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs. It stars Asa Butterfield as Jake, who grew up listening to stories from his grandfather, played by Terence Stamp. His grandfather frequently spoke of unique people who live among others with special powers and how he lived at a home for these peculiar children that was run by Miss Peregrine, played by Eva Green. As Jake grew up, he wrote these stories off as fantasy and moved on with his childhood. Deep down, he still always felt like an outcast. After his grandfather is killed one night in a gruesome manner by what Jake believes to be a monster, he seeks out Miss Peregrine's home in Wales to discover the truth. A short time after arriving with his father, played by Chris O'Dowd, Jake is led into a time loop and finds the home, learning that all of his grandfather's stories were true and about real, living people. Once there, Jake also learns about Barron, played by Samuel L. Jackson, an evil peculiar who wants to achieve immortality by trying to harness the power of an Ymbryne, a peculiar with the ability to manipulate time. Barron's experiment went wrong, and he, along with his other evil peculiars, were turned into giant invisible monsters known as Hollowgasts, or hollows for short. Barron then discovered they could regain their human form by consuming the eyes of other peculiars, and have been doing so ever since.

As you may have guessed, there is a lot going on in "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children." There is quite a bit of lead up and backstory when it comes to Jake, his grandpa, and his family before he ever gets to the actual home for peculiar children. Still, once he gets there, there is a lot of character introductions of the children and their powers, all of which happens before ever getting to Barron and his Hollowgasts. Those who have seen the trailer may not expect this film to be as dark as it really is. The film is sold heavily on the whimsy of the home and the oddness of the characters, without shedding a light on the true, much more dark nature of the story. After seeing this movie, upon reflection, it does get really horrific at times content wise. Essentially, it's about giant invisible monsters that eat the eyeballs of children. There is a lot of scary, Burton-esque imagery to go along the occasional whimsical moment, but by far, this is a much more grim fantasy drama than we expected, not that that's a bad thing.

The acting is a little hit or miss. Eva Green is brilliant as the quick and concise but slightly odd Miss Peregrine, who adorns an all black ensemble and a giant smokey pipe. On the other hand, Asa Butterfield offers quite the opposite performance, giving an extremely bland, milk toast portrayal as the protagonist Jake. He carries the part poorly, with little to no emotion, and it's a bummer because so many other, better actors could have played this part. Apart from the acting, the sets and costuming are both very beautiful and boast a classical Burton feel. This entire story is right up Burton's alley, and while it might not be his best directorial effort, it definitely rings mostly true to his style. There are some nice homages, too, one in particular to the stop motion work of effects legend Ray Harryhausen towards the end of the film. Unfortunately, the score left us underwhelmed, and we can't help but wonder if waiting for Danny Elfman would have helped the overall feel of the film musically.

Some have said the narrative here is incomprehensible, a statement we disagree with. We were both able to follow the story without any problems. There might be a lot going on, but incomprehensible is an vast overstatement. Many are quick to dismiss movies that involve time travel because there will be plot holes and paradoxes, and this movie is no different, but it's not really that difficult to follow. The biggest problem with "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" (besides Asa Butterfield) is the pacing. It takes a very, very long time to get going and drags quite a bit once the meat of the story is explored.

Overall, "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" is a mostly engaging fantasy with some intense moments of excitement, but is very slow moving, which causes a lot of empty spaces of dragging. Not all of the characters are featured equally, and it's a damn shame that Asa Butterfield really brings the movie down with his dull, lifeless portrayal of the movie's main character. Eva Green steals the show, and she was a perfectly cast actress for her part. She may single-handedly be responsible for elevating this above its almost mediocre final package.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 64%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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