Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – A „Home, Strange Home” – from Tim Burton

MOVIE REVIEW – Mix Harry Potter with X-Men, add a bit of horror, time travel and mystery, put the sexy and elegant Eva Green as the main character, et voila, you have the latest movie from famed director, Tim Burton. Are we missing something? Yes… Originality.


“People are strange when you’re a stranger,” sang Jim Morrison a long time ago, and that could be the mantra for Tim Burton and his movies as well. The original Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Sweeny Todd – those are some of his best works and “strangeness” has always been the main characteristic of Burton’s flicks. Yes, indeed odd is a safe harbor for Tim Burton, a filmmaker who flirted with normal for the first time ever in Big Eyes and got turned down.

Yet again, Burton retreats within his sanctuary of strangeness with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, with emphasis on the next-to-last word. The movie is based on a YA novel by former Sarasota County resident Ransom Riggs, the material is right up Burton‘s dark corridor, surreal and nostalgically scary.

Only Harry Potter himself is missing

There are obvious Harry Potteresque influences at play in Riggs‘ novel — for a start, a boy with perplexed by elders at home, an old British school full of kids of very particular talents and with a teacher played by always pretty Eva Green, goings-on that outsiders mustn’t know about and evil creatures needing to be kept at bay. At the same time, certain themes and human conditions are ripe for the picking by the likes of Burton, beginning with the oddball kid of impatient parents, a celebration of eccentricity and the downright weird, and a partiality toward style so outre it’s cool.

Like many of previous young Burton main characters, Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield, Hugo) is rather a problem child, not really understood by his parents (Chris O’Dowd, Kim Dickens) but still very close to his paternal grandfather Abraham (Terence Stamp), who also lives in suburban Florida. Jake never tires of hearing Grandpa’s fabulous stories about how, after having gotten out of Poland just before World War II, he’d lived in a house with “the special children” before joining the British army.

Burton’s flair is still on, but the pace is too slow

Burton pulls off the crucial time-stopping with tremendous flair and also develops a nicely low-key relationship between Jake and Emma. For a time, an appealing gentleness prevails that’s rooted in this unique inter-generational romance, a feeling augmented in particular by Purnell’s slow-blooming flower of a performance, and if the film had remained focused more on the improbabilities of this love story, it might have emerged as something rather special.

However, the first part of the movie is just damn too slow. There’s too much introduction and explaining before the story itself can really start and breathe. This preliminary phase reminds all too much X-Men movies as well with sometimes cringeworthily similarities with scenes of kids with super capabilities.

The movie is missing character development as well. The only real character development is fairly typical: The Peculiars make Jake feel special and, in return, he emboldens them to fight back against their tormentors. It’s very basic stuff, and despite Burton’s excessive tendencies, Miss Peregrine’s could use a little extra whimsy — a little extra anything, really, to bring this movie to life. That’s especially disappointing coming from Jane Goldman, the screenwriter who helped make X-Men: First Class and Kingsman: The Secret Service so entertaining.

Effective effects

Still, the movie effects throughout are marvelous, notably the portrayal of Emma’s weightlessness, Miss Peregrine‘s phenomenal transformation into a falcon and the resurrection of a sunken ocean liner from the ocean floor. Colleen Atwood’s costumes are astonishing, particularly the great dark outfit she’s created for Eva Green, as are Gavin Bocquet’s production design and Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography.

Eventually, Burton stretches into modernity with one climactic scene which is set at a boardwalk carnival, in which cartoonish skeletons march into battle against the Slenderman-like Hollows in a discordant CGI symphony set to a techno soundtrack. That musical choice has to be deliberate, as it highlights the jarring incongruity between the delightful camp of early Burton and the homogenized computerization of contemporary studio cinema.

It’s an inane stylistic union, and actually one that proves that maybe Burton can only truly succeed in the past. Unfortunately, there is no magical time loop that will allow him to continue making movies in the years between 1982 and 1996. That loop was already closed.



Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Actors - 6.8
Director - 6.2
Story - 6.1
Visuals - 7.4
Ambiance - 7.6



It’s an inane stylistic union, and actually one that proves that maybe Burton can only truly succeed in the past. Unfortunately, there is no magical time loop that will allow him to continue making movies in the years between 1982 and 1996.

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BadSector is a seasoned journalist for more than twenty years. He communicates in English, Hungarian and French. He worked for several gaming magazines - including the Hungarian GameStar, where he worked 8 years as editor. (For our office address, email and phone number check out our impressum)

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