A Review by Frank Ochieng
by Frank Ochieng
"Well one certainly cannot accuse filmmaker Tim Burton from straying away from his trademark bizarre movie-making playbook. Perhaps Burton’s best asset when it comes to his brand of distinctive cinema is to faithfully maintain that solid sense of oddness in the manner for which he presents his randomly spry, off-kilter narratives? There was always this consistent understanding that Burton enthusiastically embraces the whimsical peculiarities of his colorful, cockeyed characterizations. Naturally, the eccentric Burton would be drawn to yet another off-balance project that is right up his weirdly imaginative alley. Hence, in **Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children** the notoriously quirky director is true to form as he presents another delightfully macabre and freakish showcase that will definitely appeal to the darkened nature of the kiddie crowd.
**Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children** is the big screen adaptation of Ranson Rigg’s popular young adults trilogy. The film is an instant magnet for Burton’s off-the-cuff style and standard of warped whimsy. The Sci-Fi enhanced children’s fantasy is highlighted effectively by visually arousing set decorations, breath-taking CGI special effects, eye-popping costumes and an overall wonderment of interestingly deformed yet capable super-powered youngsters with unusual gifts that define their unique identities. Screenwriter Jane Goldman (“Stardust”) dutifully captures the misguided magic of Rigg’s best-selling novel brought to life that is very reminiscent of an atmospheric _Harry Potter-esque_ universe where one can easily detect that stimulating Hogswarts vibe bursting at the seams. The only viable knock on **Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children** is that Burton has explored this twisted territory before thus giving the familiar illusion that he is making the same movie over again but with some updated dressing. Still, the surreal stamp of Burton’s animated movie mindset is enough to recommend the erratically conceived **Miss Peregrine’s** as a frolicking fun-filled fable riddled with perky-minded naughtiness.
The construction of **Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children** is a strange brew that brings together the assembled working parts of a previous Burton Gothic-looking spectacle with similar elements meshed in the movie-related mechanics of such ditties including Mary Poppins, the aforementioned _Harry Potter_ film franchise, _Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory_ with a touch of a junior-sized _X-Men_ sentiment attached to the proceedings. Basically, Burton encourages his kooky kind of whirlwind escapism where he wants to transport the audience into a hazy maze of unstable, creepy hedonism embedded in indescribable gaudy chaos. It is no secret that Burton looks to incorporate his known ingredients of strangeness, endearment, gentle terror and slight wackiness. The majestic concoction, for the most part, works on the welcomed senses.
In the title role of **Miss Peregrine** is the fetching Penny Dreadful star Eva Green (one of Burton’s featured actresses from his 2012 film “Dark Shadows”). The nostalgic backstory of Miss P. and her mixture of rejected orphans is recalled in detail by a Florida-based retiree named Abe Portman (Terrance Stamp) who revels in enlightening his teenage grandson Jake (Asa Butterfield) about the remarkable wonder woman and her special orphanage stationed on a Welsh island. Clearly, Jake thinks highly of his grandfather’s fascinating vintage storytelling but feels like an outsider especially when his own parents think that he is in need of serious counseling. When Jake is not engaged in Abe’s recollections of his old pals from Miss Penegrine’s orphanage (complete with handy black-and-white photographs for proof of his proclamations) he works at the local supermarket in uneventful fashion.
As legend has it poor Miss Penegrine’s Victorian orphanage located on the island of Cairnholm was demolished by Nazi bombs that rendered her and the kids vulnerable during World War II. However, we are also informed of the supernatural tendencies of the resilient lady and her “peculiar children”. For one, Miss Penegrine can turn herself into a…wait for it…penegrine falcon at a moment’s notice. As for the bird beauty’s charges they too possess noteworthy specialties in appearances and spellbinding prowess as well although not as accepting as Miss P’s accentuated tricks.
Jake had always viewed his grandfather’s accounts of Miss Penegrine and her peculiar children in question as a compelling revelation especially when he was younger. Jake, courtesy of his indifferent folks, saddle him as the caretaker for the ailing Abe. However, when he uncovers his dementia-ridden, dying grandpa Abe babbling endlessly about monsters and everything connected to the Miss Peregrine universe this sparks an immense curiosity about Jake wanting to further explore Abe’s whispered claims of seemingly exaggerations. Jake is convinced that Abe was murdered–no doubt by the so-called monsters–and wants to further the cause by visiting the mysterious European island that planted so many adventurous memories in his grandfather’s childhood back in the early wartime forties. Additionally, the concept of time bubbles known as “loops” figure into the suspense. The loops are a designed invention by Miss Penegrine to keep her endangered wards safe from the period’s on-going harm.
Since Jake is already in therapy and everyone thinks that the troubled kid has a screw loose in the aftermath of the trauma regarding his deceased beloved grandpa Abe it is suggested that maybe a visit to the Welsh island would put to rest the inner conflict within the young man. So Jake’s father Franklin (Chris O’Dowd) accompanies his son to Cairnholm where he can sort out his lingering angst. Can Jake successfully locate his grandfather’s old-time orphanage and come to his own elusive conclusions? Soon, the modern-day Jake will experience his own time-traveling warp where he will at firsthand encounter the captivating kids that were included in youthful Abe’s existence including the lovely Emma (Ella Punell) that strikes his fancy–the same gal that his grandfather crushed on back in his heyday.
**Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children** is a jumbled gem that does not quite separate its eerie realm from other Burton-oriented fare that shares the same branding of visual makeup found in entries such as _Beetlejuice_, _Edward Scissorhands_ or _Dark Shadows_. Nevertheless, **Miss Pelegrine’s** is stunning although the half-baked plot bounces aimlessly at will. When Jake is transported back to 1943 and witnesses the peculiar-looking children we are truly in awe of Burton’s tangy taste for the cartoonish craziness. Children that are cursed (or blessed) with head-scratching anomalies not to mention the haunting images of Hollowgast monsters and Green’s fetching but crafty spellbound diva in Miss P all establishes an intriguing off-balance children’s Sci-Fi fantasy that hits more than it misses its nightmarish target.
Burton assembles some notable names that fill the circus ring surroundings in **Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children**. The explosive Samuel L. Jackson is on board as the villainous Barron looking to feast upon the peculiar kiddies’ eyeballs. Veteran performer Stamp is convincing as the aging Abe whose descriptions of his 40’s-era childhood inspires Butterfield’s Jake to make this disjointed journey into Burton’s devilish and daring vision of eccentricity. Other supporting players include the magnificent Judi Dench’s Miss Avocet, Emmy-winning actress Allison Janney (from TV’s “Mom”) as Dr. Golan and Rupert Everett as the resident ornithologist.
Surely, **Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children** won’t entirely disappoint avid Burton fans as he delivers what amounts to be a safe serving of sideshow cinema ready to please the entertaining palates of gentle grotesque-loving moviegoers everywhere.
**Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children** (2016)
20th Century Fox
2 hrs. 7 mins.
Starring: Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson, Terrence Stamp, Asa Butterfield, Judi Dench, Ella Purnell, Chris O’Dowd, Rupert Everett, Allison Janney, Milo Parker, Pixie Davies
Directed by: Tim Burton
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Children’s Fantasy/Sci-Fi & Family/Action & Adventure
Critic’s Rating: ** 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)
(c) **Frank Ochieng** 2016"