It’s hard to imagine a director better suited to adapt Ransom Riggs’ best-selling novel “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” than Tim Burton.
This movie is about lovable weirdos and rests at the juncture where gothic horror meets the X-Men. This is so within his wheelhouse the screenplay was probably delivered to him by Johnny Depp riding a claymation dinosaur.
The result is easily Burton’s best movie in years and is a fun, creepy thrill ride that is about as wholly original as you will find at the local megaplex.
The plot is thick and complex, so I will just hit the high points.
A teenage boy named Jake (Asa Butterfield) lives an unassuming life in Florida, where the most exciting thing he has going for him are the stories of his eccentric grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp).
Abe tells of growing up in a children’s home on an island off of the coast of Wales with kids who possessed remarkable abilities. They were all watched over by the perky and protective Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). Think of a slightly-demented version of Mary Poppins.
Circumstances dictate Jake must travel to the island where he meets Miss Peregrine and a group of children boasting all manner of “peculiarities” such as an invisible boy, a girl who is lighter than air, and a girl who can create fire with the touch of her hand.
Jake also learns the children live under a great threat. An evil “peculiar” named Baron (Samuel L. Jackson, clearly having a blast chewing scenery while boasting a fright wig, white contacts, and pointy dentures), leads a group of terrifying monsters who believe Miss Peregrine and her children hold the key to immortality.
The screenplay was written by Jane Goldman. who boasts some pretty serious nerd-cred for penning “Kick-Ass,” “X-Men: First Class” and “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” She does a great job of keeping the convoluted plot involving secrets, time travel, and a boatload of characters from becoming too unwieldy or confusing.
This movie bounces right along and Burton gets to play with some visually stunning set pieces. My favorite involves the children in a climactic battle with the monsters while receiving the aid of some reanimated skeletons — reminiscent of “Jason and the Argonauts.”
I will issue this word of caution to parents in that the marketing for this movie presents the film as whimsical and family-friendly. The reality is this is an intense flick and a hard-PG-13. The monsters are not only truly horrifying in their appearance, but their entire purpose is to kill children and eat their eyeballs. Take this into consideration before taking any elementary-aged kids to see this movie.
Ultimately, this is the story of misunderstood outsiders whom Burton has made an entire career out of championing. It also has a freshness and vitality that’s been lacking in his recent work. In the end, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is a must-see for those who like their fairy tales a little on the “Grimm” side.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and peril.