Movie Review: Tim Burton’s back with ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’
The best thing that can be said about a Tim Burton movie is it’s distinctive.
Even when his films are riddled with outsized Johnny Depp performances suggesting his character is a giant bottle of liquid eye-liner who sounds like Hunter S. Thompson, or the eye-searing visuals appear to be based off the silk-screened design on a Hot Topic hoodie from 2007, there is still something that reminds you of better days.
There’s something on screen that pulls you aside and says, “I know this isn’t great. But doesn’t that swirly, kinder-goth, spiral-thing behind Helena Bonham-Carter’s wig kind of remind you of “Beetlejuice?” It does, which is why we keep returning to his movies. If the quality isn’t there with Burton’s films, they still carry an identity. “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” doesn’t even have that much.
The idea that “Miss Peregrine” lacks an identity is very strange because all of Burton’s creative tics are on display right down to the fact he’s once again made a movie about a pale outsider who connects with a clan of slightly paler outsiders.
“Miss Peregrine” doesn’t feel like a Burton movie. It feels like a soulless imitation of a Burton movie. Almost as if a studio hack like Chris Columbus was instructed to make the movie as “Tim Burton-y” as possible. “Miss Peregrine” has its moments, but it’s emblematic of the “Eh, this’ll do” style of filmmaking that infects theaters this time of year.
Based on a gimmicky Ransom Riggs young adult novel that tied eerie Victorian photographs into a story that played like a barely reworked first draft of a Steam Punk/X-Men fanfiction novella, “Miss Peregrine” tells the story of a pale misfit named Jacob (Asa Butterfield) who ventures off to an island in Wales in search of Miss Peregrine (Eva Green who understands what this movie is and imbues her role with the required level of arch campiness) in order to bring some degree of closure to the mysterious death of his seemingly dementia-addled grandfather.
Jacob discovers that Miss Peregrine is hiding out in a time loop in 1942 along with her youthful, peculiar charges in order to avoid the wrath of the shape-shifting Barron (Samuel L. Jackson) and his army of the very Slenderman-esque Hallowghasts.
Throughout “Miss Peregrine’s” sluggishly paced and convoluted two-hour running time are flashes of a much better movie. Some of it can be seen in the supporting cast of peculiar children including a boy with a belly full of bees, twins in unnerving clown masks with the ability to turn people to stone, and a pissy, junior mad scientist who can bring inanimate objects to life. There are moments of bracing grimness when Barron and his evil associates daintily chow down on a silver platter of children’s eyeballs.
Unfortunately, these elements are never anything more than surface details. Being based on a young adult novel, “Miss Peregrine” strictly adheres to all of the creakiest tropes of the genre. “Miss Peregrine” is weighed down by endless exposition, an awkwardly inserted boy-meets-girl romance subplot and it turns out that Jacob isn’t an awkward nerd but a super, extra peculiar Peculiar who was secretly special this entire time!
Jeepers, it’s been hours since we’ve seen a plot twist like that!
It doesn’t help that Jacob is an uninteresting, dewey-eyed mope consistently overshadowed by his more interesting co-stars.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is an unremarkable movie. A strictly-for-the-paycheck effort from Burton makes me long for out-and-out disasters like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” or “Alice in Wonderland.” At least those movies are memorable.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’
Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench
Director: Tim Burton
Weekender Rating: WW
Length: 127 minutes