‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ Makes You Want to Stay a While

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

Jake (Asa Butterfield) lives a perfectly ordinary life in Florida, much to his dismay. The one person he’s closest to in the world is his grandfather (Terence Stamp), who put him to bed with stories of a children’s home where being invisible was as common as kicking a ball around in the garden. When his grandfather dies unexpectedly, Jake finds his entire world turned on its head as he can’t let go of the little island off the coast of Wales where his grandfather spent some of his teenage years with extraordinary kids at Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Mix the idea of the X-Men with a dash of Doctor Who and you might be able to imagine what Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is like as it’s brought to the screen by Tim Burton. There is a house full of children - from the very young to the nearly grown - who each have their own special abilities that make them stick out in polite society. But their perfect home is so perfect because it’s protected in a time loop that has to be reset so they can be safe from the inevitable big bad of the story. It’s a fun adventure that will take audiences young and old back to 1943 and make them wish they could see even more adventures on the same fateful day.

The movie is Tim-Burton-lite though, which might disappoint some of Burton’s older audience members. The film doesn’t have quite the same flair as Beetlejuice or the same melancholy as Edward Scissorhands, but for me, that was a good thing. There are still the kinds of imagery that make a movie a Tim Burton movie (those squeamish about anything having to do with eyes should probably look out), even if it plays more kid-friendly than his fare usually does. After all, Burton is bringing someone else’s vision to life with this one, and it’s the creativity of Ransom Riggs (who wrote the novel on which the film is based) that brings the world of Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and her house full of children to life.

20th Century Fox

The cast is nearly perfect. Eva Green in particular flirts with the line of charming and dangerous and makes you infinitely more curious about her past than anyone else’s. Samuel L. Jackson as the villainous Baron is, as he always is, so fun to watch. Jackson is one of those actors whose presence fills the screen and who can chew the scenery like no other. I do wish that we could have seen a little bit more of he and Eva Green in a battle of stealing the spotlight though.

I also don’t entirely understand the need for the stunt casting of Judi Dench and Rupert Everett. Dench and Everett are such huge names in, not just British cinema, but the world stage, and both of their roles amount to little more than cameo appearances. I can’t have been the only audience member who expected to see a little (or a lot) more of them.

20th Century Fox

The ensemble cast is also so large that there isn’t a whole lot of time to delve into the stories of many of the characters. Jake and Emma (Ella Purnell) get the bulk of the story time as they are inexplicably paired up as soon as Jake discovers that Miss Peregrine’s home is a real place and that believing his grandfather’s bedtime stories doesn’t make him crazy. I would have liked to explore even a hint of the backstory of other characters, but his film has a distinct feel of worldbuilding to it, as though whetting your appetite to set you up for the next adventure, so perhaps 20th Century Fox is hoping to bring more of Rigg’s work to the screen since there are follow up novels.

The visual and special effects in the film are stunning and the audience will likely never tire of watching the world come to life. There are the ruins of Miss Peregrine’s home in 2016, the delightful life within it in 1943, a sunken ship in the middle of the ocean, and of course, all of the peculiarities, but there’s also a fun use of stop-motion animation and even a skeleton army set loose at one point.

In fact, that skeleton army is part of the best sequence of the film as the children have to learn to stand up for themselves without the protection of Miss Peregrine. The group has to put each of their peculiarities to good use to take on a group of villains, and their use of the talents are inventive and entertaining, but also just plain fun.

I do hope that this is simply the introduction to a larger world of peculiar abilities and time loops and that audiences will get to see more Miss Peregrine and her home for peculiar children in the future.