By: Muneeb Arshid
It isn’t as “wonky” as… well, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, nor is it one of Tim Burton’s best films such as Ed Wood or Edward Scissorhands, but with a long-winded name like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, it certainly fits the bill of a Burton film. But does it rank up there with the likes of the above-stated movies? Well…..
Miss Peregrine is based on the novel of the same name starring Eva Green in the titular role as the headmistress of a home for children who have been shunned by society because of their “Peculiar” abilities, hence the kids are given the name of “Peculiar Children”. To list the names of all the kids in the film would be unwise (as IMDB is a great reference for that), but the two main kids in the film are Asa Butterfield as Jake, who is the main protagonist, and Ella Purnell as Emma, a girl who’s ability is that she is lighter than air and requires lead shoes or else she would just float away. Terence Stamp plays Jake’s grandfather Abe, who has a connection to Emma through their time staying at the house in the 1940s and is crucial in Jake understanding his own peculiar ability but also in building Jake’s relationship with Emma.
Okay, now you must be wondering how grandpa and grandson can be pining for the same girl. Well, ladies and gentlemen, you guessed it, time travel. More precisely, the use of “loops” which by the end of the film, it gets quite hard to understand how they actually work. See, initially, loops are explained to be exactly what it sounds like, a time loop, where the headmistress has to reset the time so that the exact same 24 hour period occurs every single day. However, everything is thrown into haywire right at the last scene when it’s explicitly shown that Jake has to utilize multiple loops to get back from the present day to the exact time period where the kids are situated by moving through and between different time periods. Are you confused now? You should be, even more so now that I tell you that the entire movie, Jake used a single portal to transport from present day to “peculiar time”. Okay, I’m just being facetious now; the film in its many exposition blurbs does tell us why the loops have gone all “loopy” but at this point, my brain had gone all mush, so nope!
There are a lot of negatives about this film, none of which that are more striking than the intensely excessive amounts of exposition in this film. The film feels that if it isn’t explaining everything that’s happening or is about to happen, that all us “mortals” would merely revert to Pre-K level brains and would not understand. Honestly, I would’ve appreciated far less “Basel Exposition” even though that might have meant that I would understand even less, but at least I would’ve had some fun in trying to figure out what’s actually going on. By just having everything blasted at us, a loss of focus was inevitable.
The second problem in this film is the characters, not the quantity (which is a problem on its own), but the quality of the characters. I normally don’t like to rag on kid actors in any film, and for the most part, they aren’t too bad here, but it’s surprising how bad some of the lines are for some of them. Not just for the kids but the lines for the adults aren’t any better, however with the older cast, you can understand that they are trying their best to sell the script. Asa Butterfield, who is a quality actor in his own right with star-making performances in Hugo and A Brilliant Young Mind, has some of the most stilted dialogue delivery I’ve seen from a kid actor which could be just a factor of a poor script and an inexperienced actor having to deal with it. The younger kids, however, are quite enjoyable to watch, with loads of great interactions between them and relatively little dialogue delivery required from them. It seems like they’re having a lot of fun with their roles. The older cast, however, is plainly there for the paycheque that they are getting from a slightly “blockbuster-y” film. Okay fine, they might actually have wanted to work with Tim Burton but just saying that the characters are slightly ridiculous is kind of an understatement.
Samuel L. Jackson is playing the main villain named Barron who, first of all gets shunned away for the entire first half of the film, and once he is brought back in (as a slight afterthought), there is an oozing amount of ridiculousness to his character and his lackeys where it gets to a point of snoozing through their performances. But once again, the problem isn’t necessarily with the acting itself, rather the poorly scripted dialogue, by the normally competent Jane Goldman. The adult characters are trying their hardest to accommodate the script (Eva Green has the greatest success in that regard), but they ultimately do fail at their attempt.
Or maybe it was just missing a dose of Johnny Depp in the film, who knows! Nah it definitely was not missing that but there was an utter lack of Terence Stamp, who was so sorely missed through the entirety of the final two acts. At least with him on screen, there was an air of quality being portrayed, and his story was actually quite intriguing, as to where that end could’ve been fleshed out. However, he is swiftly cast aside once the connection between him and Jake has been made.
There are a lot of knock-on effects that have not helped Miss Peregrine, a badly written script has caused performances, for the most part, to go all over the place, especially from seasoned veteran actors. The bad script has caused the film to lose the strands of its plot with the consequence being a 127-minute film that feels more like 157 minutes long. And just in an overall sense, the film just feels like it’s lacking that Tim Burton flair we’ve come to expect. The theme and the look of the film are exactly what we’ve come to expect from Burton, but the quality just isn’t there. That’s not to say that he’s lost that filmmaking touch; just two years ago he made a quality film in Big Eyes which many people liked, even though it didn’t garner up widescreen support. His next film is a sequel to another beloved film from his past, Beetlejuice 2. The fear of making a sequel 20+ years later aside, maybe that is a film that might rejuvenate Burton once again.
The TFL team, disappointingly give Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children a grade of D (5.2/10).