Miss Peregrine’s Is A Delightfully Peculiar Tale

Credit: 20th Century Fox
Credit: 20th Century Fox

I will admit that this is only the second Tim Burton film I’ve ever seen. Bearing that in mind, I will not make comparisons to any other film in his library like other reviews have because, well, what do I have to go on? (I don’t count me seeing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because I’ve only seen that film maybe twice since its release.)

Carrying on.

I came into Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children with very little knowledge of Burton’s style or the story which it was based on. I own the novel and have never read it. Scandalous, I know. But, what drew me into the novel was the cover which was a vintage picture of a little girl levitating in mid air. I read the inside of the dust jacket and flipped through the book discovering a whole host of fantastical photographs that simultaneously made my skin crawl and my imagination run wild. When I think of the novel, I think sepia tones and macabre fantasy set in the forties.

Burton, however, soaked the film in technicolor with hints of steampunk and comedy which makes the film quirky and whimsical.

The film tells the story of Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield) whose grandfather is a ‘peculiar’. Peculiars are humans with supernatural abilities. Abe Portman (Terence Stamp) tells his grandson stories about an island where it’s always sunny and there’s a children’s home full of magical children with powers ranging from super strength to invisibility to horticulture on steroids. Jake is unaware of his peculiarity until his grandfather is killed and his eyes are removed from their sockets. He convinces his dad to take him to Wales to see if this children’s home even exists so he can separate fact from fiction. What he discovers is something truly spectacular.

Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) is an Ymbryne and the headmistress of the children’s home. Ymbrynes can manipulate time and can change into a specific bird. Miss Peregrine turns into a blue Peregrine falcon. Ymbrynes create time loops which protect their wards in a little pocket of time anywhere it’s safe. But things aren’t safe. There are monsters called hollows that hunt the peculiars. There’s a long drawn out explanation that I could include but it would spoil the movie. Jake’s peculiarity is that he can see the monsters while other peculiars can’t.

There is so much I could say about this film. The story could stand to be a little tighter but the novels have two sequels so I understand why there would need to be a few loose ends not tied up. Other than that one little quibble, I thought the movie was fantastic. The special effects are spot on. The hollows are appropriately creepy and the finale is equal parts hilarious and scary.

Green is a breath of fresh air as Miss Peregrine. I needed more of her on my screen. There just wasn’t enough of her character and I feel like this film opened up the door for her character for later films. Green was flighty (pun intended) and mysterious when needed yet there were times when I could feel the pain and the fear Miss Peregrine had for her wards. This is a character that’s so deep and we’ve barely scratched the surface with her.

Butterfield has definitely improved in acting since his debut in Merlin, but I still felt he was severely lacking in depth. Where Green had a plethora of it, Butterfield did not which made me wish Jake would’ve gotten his eyes gouged out by a hollow from the very start. Depressing, I know, but the story is called Miss Peregrine’s so why can’t we have more of her and less of him?

Samuel L. Jackson also wasn’t up to par like I was hoping he’d be. All of his roles are beginning to feel one noted. I felt like I was watching his villain in Kingsman only without a lisp and with white eyes and white hair. And why does every screenwriter insist on trying to make his villainous turns funny? I don’t think I’ll ever understand. I want a villain that’s scary and unhinged and creepy and there was potential there but the hollows were creepier than he was and they were made of clay. (At least, I think they were. They had the jerky stop-motion quality often seen in Burton’s films.)

Where the acting lacked, the story soared. The set pieces were beautiful. Colleen Atwood deserves every costuming award imaginable. The costumes were subtle but told a story and the actors wore them well. I would kill for Emma Bloom’s wispy blue dress. It looks lighter than air and so soft.

As a whole, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is definitely a franchise I will be watching. It had a beauty and an oddity that I’ve not seen in films for a long time. There was wit and humour and I want to see more.

4/5 Stars

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Shelby Arnold

Shelby is currently reviewer extraordinaire for 4YE. She is also currently the co-editor of Arkansas Tech University's paper The Arka Tech. She runs her own movie review blog called Shellin' Out Reviews where she crossposts many of her reviews. She previously was a staff writer at PopWrapped.

Shelby started writing at the age of 13 and has been hooked ever since. She's currently going to school at ATU for Creative Writing and English with a minor in Film Studies. She hopes to one day be a professor of film, a film critic, and a screenwriter. (Can you tell she likes the movies?)

She hopes to walk the red carpet one day. She contributes a long list of friends, co-workers, professors, and writers as the inspiration for her dreams and goals.

You can find Shelby on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
Shelby Arnold
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