Following a string of mild disappointments, director Tim Burton has returned to the well of weird ideas for a big screen adaptation of the popular young adult book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
So, is it any good?On first glance, this film marks somewhat of a departure for Burton, with regular collaborators Johnny Depp, ex-wife Helena Bonham Carter and long time composer Danny Elfman completely out of the picture. Unfortunately, Peregrine has the same flaws that have plagued many of his live action films since Alice In Wonderland, in particular the complex but meandering narrative.
When teenager Jake’s beloved grandfather Abraham passes away under strange circumstances, it sets in motion a chain of events which takes Jake from suburban Florida to a remote island off the coast of Wales, all in search of an abandoned orphanage whom Abraham claimed was home to a family of children with special abilities. What follows is an ever expanding story involving time travel jiggery pokery, numerous character introductions, and a shit load of exposition. For anyone whose read the book, these gripes may be of little concern, but as an audience member not familiar with this world, its an at times alienating experience.The large cast of children are all serviceable in their roles as the Peculiar children even though we’re never quite given enough time to get to know them all, while Asa Butterfield is strangely lacklustre as the wide eyed Jake. In the adult department Eva Green is effective, Chris O’Dowd is underused, and Judi Dench shows up in a blink and you’ll miss it role. If there’s a standout of the film it’s Samuel L. Jackson, who revels at the chance to play a creepy villain, so much so that he literally chews the scenery at times.
I don’t want to give the impression that I hated this film, its just that overall I was completely underwhelmed and unmoved by it. There were definitely some impressive moments that gave a few brief glimpses of Burton brilliance, one involving a refreshing piece of old school stop motion animation. There’s also plenty of the eye popping production design we’ve come to expect from Burton’s films, but as 2016’s blockbuster offerings have proven, a film can’t sustain itself on pretty pictures alone.Neither terrible nor memorable, Burton’s latest sadly falls somewhere in the middle. Impeccably designed but emotionally empty, it marks not so much a slide but a further side step for the visionary director, making you wish he’d fully recommit to the darker, more adult fare that defined his early career. Lovers of the book may be pleased enough with the results, but for everyone else, I’d say its probably best to catch this one at home. Fingers crossed for Beetlejuice 2!
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children opens in Australian cinemas from today