Review by Lauryn Angel
I’ve been a fan of Tim Burton’s films since I first saw Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure at age eleven. Burton’s oeuvre definitely had a formative impact on me, as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and, of course, The Nightmare Before Christmas still number among my favorite films. I have to admit, however, that some of his more recent films have made me cringe more than they’ve delighted me (I’m looking at you, Dark Shadows). As a fan of Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and its sequels, I was simultaneously thrilled and skeptical at the idea of Tim Burton directing a film version. Burton definitely has the sense of whimsy to do the books justice, and although he makes a few changes to the text here and there, the resulting film is a delightful spectacle.
In a theme familiar to Burton fans, Jacob Portman (Asa Butterfield) was once very close to his grandfather, Abe (Terrence Stamp), but their relationship becomes strained when Jacob decides that the fantastic stories his grandfather tells him cannot be true. His relationship with his parents (played by Kim Dickens and Chris O’Dowd) is even more troubled, and when Abe dies suddenly, Jacob’s therapist, Dr. Golan (Allison Janney) recommends a trip to Wales, so Jacob can find the truth to his grandfather’s stories, and hopefully find closure. While in Wales, however, Jacob discovers that Abe’s stories of “The Bird” and a home for orphans with strange abilities, called “Peculiars” are all true. He finds Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and all of the children his grandfather grew up with, including Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell).
Fans of the book may take issue with the fact that screenwriter Jane Goldman changed Emma’s peculiarity from the novel – here Emma is the levitating girl, while her peculiarity of incendiary hands is assigned to Olive, the levitating girl from the novel – and given her additional talents. This change, though, allows for some additional scenes that develop the budding romance between Emma and Jacob more satisfactorily than the novel does. The character of Miss Peregrine is also slightly more malleable than she is in the novel, less strict. The film cuts quite a bit of the exposition, as well, which results in a much quicker pace.
Eva Green and Samuel L. Jackson are the stand-out performers in the film. Green’s Miss Peregrine is a delight, whilst Jackson’s performance is fun, if a bit of a re-tread of other performances. To be fair, Burton himself does a lot of re-treading, in themes and set design – that dinosaur topiary was originally used in Edward Scissorhands. We expect certain things when we see a Tim Burton film – gorgeous costumes and make-up, kooky characters, forboding and whimsical settings. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children delivers all of these things, but it doesn’t quite reach the heights of some of Burton’s early work. It’s still great fun and worth seeing on the big screen.
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