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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children




Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

10/06/16
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



 Director Tim Burton delivers the movie adaptation of the popular YA novel with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a decent enough adventure story occasionally smothered by exposition. 

Jake (Asa Butterfield) is a late high school-aged teenager who works at a drugstore and helps to care for his beloved but fading grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp). One day, when it seems like his grandpa is having some sort of episode, Jake heads to his house to check on him. When he arrives, he finds the house disheveled, the fence torn open as if by a large animal, and his grandfather, eyeless and dying, outside. Jake also sees a big terrifying something in the dark, a monster not unlike the one described by Abe years earlier in spooky bedtime stories he told Jake.
Or were they just stories? Abe told Jake tales of children with extraordinary abilities and a school on an island off the coast of Wales where he once lived with them. As he grows older, Jake starts to believe his father’s (Chris O’Dowd) version of events — that Abe wasn’t sent to this school because he was an extraordinary child being chased by monsters but because he was a child escaping World War II-era Poland. But still, we can tell by Jake’s conversations with his therapist (Allison Janney) — to whom he is sent after his grandfather’s death — he’s not completely convinced Abe’s stories were all metaphor and fairy tale. The therapist suggests that Jake visit the school to find some closure and his father reluctantly agrees to take him.
Once on the island, Jake finds the children Abe told him about and follows them into a “loop,” basically a portal to1940s Wales that repeats one day, the 24-hour period before the school where they live is bombed by Germans, over and over. The children don’t age but do appear to remember the decades they’ve spent living the one day. They are protected by — and the time loop is kept alive by — Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), the woman who runs the school. She, like the other headmistress-types of her kind, can manipulate time and also turn into a bird, the former thing seeming like a way bigger deal than the latter. 
The kids at the school include an invisible boy (Cameron King), a girl who can make things grow quickly (Georgia Pemberton), a bunch of other kids with assorted powers and Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell), a Jake-aged teenage girl who fills the requisite Burton movie slot of a girl with blonde hair, very pale skin and big eyes. She’s less cartoony-looking than previous versions of this Burton girl, but still, there she is, along with the twins (what’s his deal with twins?), the creepy Frankensteined dolls and stylized use of color — though I will say, the general Burton-ness of this movie is fairly dialed down.
All these kids — who have been at this school? At this school and in this one day? Or something?  — who have been with Miss Peregrine for ages knew Abe. Now they help Jake to discover that he, like Abe before him, is also “peculiar,” as the specially-skilled kids are known. He can see the monsters, tall and spiky-toothed, that hunt peculiars. When he learns about Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), a leader of the monsters, Jake realizes that not only were the stories his grandfather told him true, but the thing he saw when his grandfather died was also quite real.
Miss Peregrine’s has to do a lot of world-building. A. Lot. Well past an hour into this movie, elements of the whole peculiar-children universe were still being explained. And a lot of these details don’t exactly hang together on further reflection — which is not surprising. Any time a story plays with ideas of time and time travel, “but, wait, how...” becomes inevitable. But for a movie to have to fit this many pieces together and still have plot holes accentuates the feeling that the movie is just spinning its wheels, fluffing out the run time with a bunch of details that go nowhere and characters that don’t amount to much, before we get to the meat of the story, which happens in the last 40 percent or so of the movie when the school and its occupants come under attack.
The more the movie gets down to the business of magical children fighting monsters, the better the movie works. There are two kids-versus-monsters battles and, while I still didn’t totally understand the rules of this universe or the bad guys in it, the way the kids defend themselves by using their various abilities is cute. The movie balances otherworldliness (of their powers, their appearance, Wales) and adventure well, and the 1940s setting allows for a certain amount of an old-timey-fairy-tale quality. 
Though the movie is overly packed with kids and brief examples of their peculiarness — introduced and then used mostly as scene-filler — the main characters bring enough liveliness to their roles to help pull us through all the explanation and get to the action. I didn’t particularly care about the budding romance of Jake and Emma (who was his grandfather’s sweetheart? It’s implied but not really addressed) but Jake generally makes for a good hero, a nice blend of modern goofus and boy with special powers. I’m not clamoring for anybody’s further adventures, but I was basically satisfied with this one. B
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and peril. Directed by Tim Burton with a screenplay by Jane Goldman, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is two hours and seven minutes long and distributed by 20th Century Fox. 
 





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