There’s nothing new
here, that much is obvious. It’s a Tim Burton film about pale, paranormal
weirdos (seen it). It’s the origin story of a team of superheroes and the first
movie in a possible franchise (sounds familiar). It’s the adaptation of a
‘young adult’ novel about a moody adolescent who turns out to be special (heard
it before). It’s hard to look at the poster for Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children without feeling tired
in your cynical old bones.
Tim Burton seems to
feel the same way. It’s not like he holds the source material – the novel by
Ransom Riggs – in high esteem. You get the sense that Burton considers the
tale of magical ‘Ymbrynes’ and ‘Hollowgasts’ to be a load of old blarney (not
for him the finicky reverence of cinematic universe-building). His version
of Miss Peregrine is terribly
cavalier with its consistency and internal logic. It papers over its own plot holes indifferently.
None of which sounds
very promising. And Miss Peregrine doesn’t
exactly start with a bang. But after a so-so first act, something wonderful
happens: the film picks up steam and Burton ends up piling set-piece upon
wonderful set-piece. By the climax he has you making various gleeful
exclamations into a cinema full of people making similar exclamations. This is
what The BFG should have been.
The details of the
plot are no more important to the fun than in a Raymond Chandler novel, but you
have to give them credit for getting Burton where he needed to go. Young
Florida-native Jake (Asa Butterworth) travels to a small Welsh island to follow
up a mad-sounding story told to him by his late grandfather (Terrance Stamp);
there he comes across the titular Home, the eponymous Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), and her
orphaned ‘Peculiars’. Hidden from the outside world, these children each
possess a unique ability, ranging from the standard (invisibility) to the lame
(power to grow giant vegetables) to the frankly Burton-esque (we won’t spoil it).
Eva Green as Miss Peregrine
This brood is under
threat from evil forces, for which we
should be thankful. It’s the introduction of the baddies that gives the film a
sense of fun and danger. Samuel L. Jackson is infectiously amused by his
cackling moustache-twirling role, but his character’s fellow monsters –
eyeless, quadrupedal mannequins with shark teeth and tentacle tongues – are
genuinely unsettling, and probably too frightening for smaller children (these
creatures eat people’s eyeballs –
don’t say we didn’t warn you).
charms, Tim Burton’s early films were always a bit saccharine as well as
‘dark’, although they’re infinitely preferable to his later CGI-bloated
monstrosities. Miss Peregrine’s Home for
Peculiar Children doesn’t just avoid these characteristics; it more or less
inverts them. Its special effects are
relatively restrained, and although it’s rigorously unsentimental compared to
most children’s films (and most Burton films), the tone throughout is spirited
and almost wholesome.
The secret ingredient – the thing that sets Miss Peregrine apart from similar Burton films – is the absence of long-term collaborator Johnny Depp. If this
is the beginning of an actor-director hiatus, may it be a long one.
Rated 12A. We recommend for ages 11+
|What||Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
30 Sep 16 – 30 Nov 16, Times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more details|