If ever there was a perfect combination of director and material, it is the blending of Tim Burton and Ransom Riggs’ 2011 YA novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. You could swear Riggs wrote it knowing that Burton would turn it into a film. This is just the kind of eccentric, oddball stuff Burton has been serving up for 30 years, and as I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), it has the advantage of being a pretty damn good entry in the era of Harry Potter, but something with its own brand of strange charm.
At the center of this endearing tale, which I think kids of all ages are going to eat up, is young Jake (Asa Butterfield), who lives in Florida with his parents (Chris O’Dowd and Kim Dickens) and grandfather Abraham (Terence Stamp), who weaves tall tales of once being part of a magical school in Britain before joining the war. Jake is the one in the family who really is fascinated by Grandpa’s stories of facing monsters, even though Abraham is tight-lipped about most things in his war experience. After Abraham dies, Jake’s dad decides to take him to Wales and the site of these tales he feels are fabricated. They come upon a bombed-out home right on the site, yes that home, and while there Jake goes exploring and passes through a portal that takes him back to September 3, 1943, the last idyllic day for this group of unique young people and the woman who rules the roost, Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). She’s especially interesting since she can turn herself into a falcon. How about that?
The other weird thing is that Miss Peregrine also can play with time, avoiding the harsh realities of war by stopping the clock each day before midnight and reversing 24 hours in time travel to always make it September 3, 1943. Essentially it stands for the last day of innocence for this group of “peculiars” who all have special powers a la X-Men. It includes an invisible kid; a budding taxidermist who brings inanimate objects to life; and especially a girl named Emma (Ella Pornell), who wears heavy army boots because if she doesn’t she is liable to just float away into space like a balloon. She knew Abraham, and when Jake arrives she starts an innocent budding romance with him that helps carry the story along until the third act, when all hell breaks loose with the introduction of the movie’s inevitable villain, Barron, played with evil relish by Samuel L. Jackson.
This, of course, is where all the CGI special effects and action with creatures and others comes into play. It is the nature of bringing kid stuff like this to the screen these days, even if it throws everything a little off-kilter. The key to the success here, though, is its delightful gathering of originals, each character someone we can relate to in one way or another. Jake, oddly enough and through no fault of the fine Butterfield, is the dullest of the bunch, a vessel to get us to his really cool new acquaintances.
There is no doubt the success of the Harry Potter franchise led Riggs to create this literary trilogy — along with his own set of vintage photographs that provided the inspiration — and 20th Century Fox hopes to launch what could be a series of Peregrine films. With the wonderful Green in charge onscreen, and the Burton magic behind the scenes, who could ask for anything more? Producers are Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping for Chernin Entertainment. Fox releases the film wide today.
Do you plan to see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? Let us know what you think.