-- Starring Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, and Allison Janney
Four out of five stars
I don’t know whose idea it was to have director Tim Burton adapt Ransom Riggs’ 2011 novel "Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children," but I do know I’d like to buy that person a drink. The idea was like matching Burton with Johnny Depp. Perfect.
Asa Butterfield stars as Jake, an ordinary -- maybe less than ordinary -- teenager living in South Florida, whose grandfather, Abe (Terence Stamp), is killed. Everybody else thinks Abe died of natural causes, but Jake, who witnessed Abe’s death, saw a monster not far from where he found his grandfather, though nobody believes him. Furthermore, before Abe passes, he utters some sort of riddle to Jake about an island, a loop, a bird and 1943. I won’t give you the direct quote because it’s best to hear the amazing Mr. Stamp say it.
Abe’s death hits Jake hard -- he was closer to his grandfather than he is to his own father. Abe would spend countless hours regaling Jake with stories of his own childhood, one spent on a British island in a special home run by a Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). Jake’s therapist (Allison Janney) suggests Jake’s family take him to the island where Miss Peregrine’s home supposedly is. When they get there, Jake learns the home was destroyed by a Nazi bomber in 1943. And that’s when the children of Miss Peregrine’s home discover Jake.
The children, led by Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell), were sent to the future by Miss Peregrine to bring back Jake. As it turns out, Miss Peregrine is what’s known as an Ymbryne, a woman who can create time loops -- making the same day recur over and over -- for the sole purpose of protecting “peculiar” children, who are a lot like the mutants we’ve become accustomed to from the X-Men series.
Instead of “mutant powers,” these kids have “peculiarities.” For instance, Emma is light as air. One of the little girls is as strong as 10 men, while another has a mouth in the back of her head. There’s an invisible boy, another who has bees in his body, and another who can project his dreams through his eyes, just like a movie projector.
As it happens, Miss Peregrine’s powers, and those of every other Ymbryne, are an issue because several former peculiar children, led by Dr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), have been attempting to harness the Ymbrynes' powers to achieve immortality. And some of those former children are now monsters whose only way to survive is by eating human eyeballs. Yummy!
Tim Burton pulls off a neat trick here. The story, which deviates slightly from the book, sticks to a familiar formula, and everything here is derivative of "Harry Potter," "X-Men," and "Hot Tub Time Machine." OK, it’s not remotely derivative of "Hot Tub Time Machine," but it’s clearly derivative of the rest. But even so, this film feels completely original and, most importantly, like a Tim Burton film. It’s gorgeous, it’s creepy, it’s mystical, it’s engrossing and enchanting.
The movie fan in me loves "Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children." The movie critic in me found a few flaws, but forgivable ones.