Adaptation Adventure

'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children' Film Review: Tim Burton's latest is a madcap fantasy mash-up

September 30, 2016Ben MK

What do you call a group of uniquely gifted young people, whose special abilities — like the power to control the air, to set anything they touch ablaze, or to see invisible monsters — makes it hard for them to fit into normal society? If you're talking about the X-Men franchise, you call them mutants. But if you're talking about director Tim Burton's latest children's fantasy film, you call them... Peculiar.

Based on the bestselling book of by author Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children follows Jake (Asa Butterfield), a seemingly ordinary Florida teen who grew up listening to the farfetched stories of his grandpa Abe (Terence Stamp). Things begin to get strange for Jake, however, when his beloved grandpa mysteriously dies — accompanied by visions of a ghastly creature that only Jake can apparently see — prompting Jake to embark on a journey to visit the Welsh island of Cairnholm, the setting for many of Abe's tall tales.

It's there that Jake comes to the stunning realization that dear old granddad's bedtime stories weren't stories at all, and that there really was an orphanage that nearly a dozen children with fantastical abilities called home, which was presided over by a headmistress who not only had the power to transform into a bird, but who could also manipulate time. What's more, Jake finds himself magically whisked back in time to 1943, where he becomes a key figure in the world of the headmistress, Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), and the children under her care.

But alas, there's evil afoot in the form of a scheming mad scientist named Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), who seeks to unlock the secret to immortality by experimenting on Peculiars like Miss Peregrine (who belongs to a race known as Ymbrynes). Even worse, Barron and his cohorts have developed a taste for the most ghastly of delicacies in the process — the eyeballs of Peculiar children. And to ensure his favorite midnight snack is never in short supply, he's dispatched his ghoulish minions — tall, spindly creatures called Hollowghasts — to bring them back in bulk.

Believe it or not, that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the script by Jane Goldman, which also manages to fit in a shapeshifter and an army of Ray Harryhausen-esque skeleton warriors, not to mention a time travel element that borrows from such movies as Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow. And, of course, that's not even factoring in the movie's most obvious inspirations, as Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children feels very much like the madcap mash-up of the X-Men and the Harry Potter series you never knew you wanted.

Of course, that's not to say that Burton doesn't put his own unique spin on things. Whether it's the Hollowghast creature designs (reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas' Jack Skellington) or the period costume and production design (both of which evoke the Gothic atmosphere of 2012's Dark Shadows), there's plenty of Burton goodness here for fans to dig into. Plus, there are even shades of the director's most recent foray into family-friendly features — Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass — if you're feeling masochistic.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children releases September 30th, 2016 from Twentieth Century Fox. The film has an MPAA rating of Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and peril. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 7 Mins.

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