Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016): Film Review

Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson
Viewed: Showcase Cinema De Lux, Leicester, 05/10/16

So before I get into the meat of this review, I think it is worth noting that I am not a fan of Tim Burton. I believe his films are the very definition of all style, no substance, and for the most part, they just don’t do much for me. His imagery is striking, and his over the top visual flair is usually apparent at the earliest stages of his films. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Miss Peregrine’s Home’s subtle use of visuals, whilst still maintaining that beautiful Burton-esque style.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children follows Jacob (Asa Butterfield), a teenage boy whose only decent relationship is with his grandfather. After his death, Jacob seeks out a place his grandfather told him about that houses children with special abilities. Miss Peregrine’s Home ends up being stuck in the past in Wales during World War II, and after a series of events, Jacob stumbles into this world and his adventure begins. The early stages of the film are paced well, and we receive a nice introduction into this new world, where one girl has the ability to float, one has a monstrous mouth on the back of her head and a young boy can project his previous night’s dreams through his eye, sounds like a match made in heaven for Burton. It is actually a shame that we don’t get to know too much about most of the children at the home, as primary focus is centred on just one or two of them. The same can be said for Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), who stole the show every time she was on screen, but she just wasn’t on screen nearly enough, which I believe to be down to a big narrative error. About halfway into the film, Jacob leaves this beautiful fantasy world to return to his boring father, only to come back to the fantasy world again a short while later. This really disrupts the flow of the film, and completely removes you from the world that was being built around you. Perhaps if the story had remained within the children’s home, it also wouldn’t be necessary for Jacob to have to constantly ask questions about the world around him, instead, discovering things for himself.

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It is clear that Burton hasn’t gone for an all out CGI-fest for this project, and all the better for it. It still looks beautiful, but using practical effects on location is a nice change from some of the green-screen saturation in his previous work. What really let the film down was the final act which was incredibly disjointed from the rest of the film. Miss Peregrine’s Home goes from drawing us into a believable fantasy world, to being completely silly in the blink of an eye. Samuel L. Jackson plays the big bad guy, and the last third of the film revolves around Jacob and the peculiar children trying to take him down. At this point, the entire tone shifts, and results in a poorly executed finale that will leave you feeling like the ending was taken from a completely different film and hastily tacked onto what was looking like a promising piece of cinema. Samuel L. Jackson had no business being in this film (and trust me, I don’t say such a thing lightly), he just didn’t work and his backstory and motivations were slapdash to say the least.

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The first two-thirds of Miss Peregrine’s Home were good, and even great at points. The films visuals were more refined than Burton’s usual style, but looked gorgeous and more authentic than ever. If not for the completely horrible final act, clunky narrative and poorly written villain, this may have been the first Tim Burton film that I could have walked away and really enjoyed. Alas, I am still yet to be converted.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a disappointing 5/10

Fun fact: Tim Burton makes a brief cameo in the ‘carnival scene’.

By Stuart Keating