Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Stamp
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and peril
Tim Burton’s newest film (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) features neither Johnny Depp nor Helena Bonham Carter, and doesn’t even have Danny Elfman doing music. His normal level of kookiness is also somewhat absent. To top things off, he stuck his foot in his mouth during a recent interview and said some pretty racist stuff. Folks trying to decide whether to see “Miss Peregrine’s” will need to weigh not only considerations of book adaptation and tone, but also whether his remarks affect their comfort with paying to see his film.
All of this aside, the film is pretty good. The book it’s based on is very popular, and fans of the book will need to be okay with major changes between page and screen. The movie is perfectly approachable for those who haven’t read the book, however. It’s a straightforward plot: a young man’s (Asa Butterfield) beloved relative (Terrence Stamp) dies; while investigating what happened to said relative, the young man discovers a secret group of people with fascinating powers and must help them fight off monstrous villains.
Burton’s aesthetic has been dialed back quite a bit, to the point that the film is not obviously one of his. If you thought Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” was a bit much, “Miss Peregrine’s” will probably be more your style, but if you’re hoping for wall-to-wall oddities, you may be somewhat disappointed. The curiosities in the film are mostly very well done, and include the requisite small, charming children with scary powers you can’t see at first and ghastly monsters with creepy eyes (or no eyes at all) and pointy teeth.
The special effects that produce these curiousities range from sublime to startlingly mediocre, but are only distractingly obvious in a couple of places (and depending on your sensitivity to green screen and CGI, you may not be bothered at all). There are several massive, fantastical sequences to enjoy, from raising a sunken cruise ship to a small army of skeletons taking on invisible monsters.
Parents may want to keep smaller kids at home. While the rating is only PG-13, there is some nightmare fuel here. The monsters are huge, long-legged former humans, and eat the eyes of their prey with their numerous, writhing tentacle-tongues. The cruise ship has many skeletons inside, still wearing the clothes of the person who drowned there. We see several corpses sans eyes after attacks by the monsters, as well.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is a fun ride if you are happy to suspend your disbelief enough to enjoy it. If you just want to see Eva Green in period clothing being delightfully odd, this is your movie. Folks hoping for a faithful adaptation of the book or a great film telling a powerful story should probably stay away.