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  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Being DifferentBuy this film here.
Year: 2016
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, Allison Janney, Chris O'Dowd, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Finlay MacMillan, Lauren McCrostie, Hayden Keeler-Stone, Kim Dickens, O-Lan Jones, Milo Parker, Pixie Davies
Genre: Horror, Fantasy, Adventure
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jake (Asa Butterfield) is a teenager who doesn't feel like he fits in with his peers in Florida, so much so that his parents (Chris O'Dowd and Kim Dickens) have ordered him to see a psychiatrist (Allison Janney) who listens to his problems and offers advice. Yet he is more of the opinion that his grandfather (Terence Stamp) gives him all the advice he needs, or at least he used to as nowadays he is not quite himself thanks to dementia - he phones Jake often and asks him to head over to his place for help. That is what happens today when he is at work, so his accommodating boss (O-Lan Jones) assists him by driving the boy over to grandfather's bungalow, but when they arrive he is nowhere to be seen - until Jake discovers him nearby in the woods, and without any eyes...

Director Tim Burton proved himself no longer immune to the charms - or potential box office results - of the young adult fiction market with this adaptation of Ransom Riggs' novel, the first in an inevitable series of books as these things went more often than not. There were all the signals that this was what Burton was applying himself to, but were they at the cost of his usual visual flair and particular interest in his themes? Certainly the common protagonist of an outsider was present and correct, but there were those other trappings, the psychological turmoil, the tentative romance, the nasty bits to make the target audience feel they were "getting away with something" by reading this, and most importantly the singling out of the lead as somehow special.

Actually, that would fit in with Burton's style pretty adequately, and so it turned out with a very recognisably Burtonian movie, yet there was something about the young adult world that turned his tropes into formula, and for that reason Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children could not be counted among his finest achievements. It was by no means a bad film, and many of the performances were amusing in a stars letting their hair down sort of fashion, but there was not much room for it all to breathe, especially with too many scenes of Jake either having things explained to him or more pointedly not explained to him so they could be explained later on in the narrative, so as not to reveal too much too early.

Once you noticed that pattern, and noted that if Miss Peregrine had simply blabbed all to Jake the moment she met him then this would all have been over at a far swifter clip, then a creeping sense of frustration entered into what was holding its imagination back for the monsters and talented individuals who will eventually battle them. Most of those talented folks were kids, as Jake finds when he takes his dying grandparent's advice and journeys off to a Welsh island with his father and after a degree of unkind hindrance from the locals he stumbles upon the home of the title, as described by his late relative. One problem: it's a ruin, and there's certainly nobody living there, so this would appear to be a setback, but something draws Jake back to investigate the derelict building, which is where he blunders into the time loop.

This is like something out of Edwardian children's literature, though the loop itself is set in 1943, and the matter of finding somewhere to be safe from the ravages of the world emerges, be that an actual location or a state of mind, or indeed fantastique such as this. Eva Green was our Miss Peregrine, performing as in her better roles with a glint of madness about the eyes, though despite her top billing she did tend to play second fiddle to the youngsters. It is she who can control time, and turn into a falcon to boot, but all her charges have superhero-style powers or quirks which come in handy, predictably when they have to defend themselves come the grand finale - this was yet another fantasy movie to end in a great big fight. Along the way, Burton picked a perhaps overqualified cast including a nervous Judi Dench, a posh Rupert Everett, and most entertainingly a curiously petty Samuel L. Jackson as the lead villain (better here than in Kingsman, for example), but again it was the kids where our sympathies were meant to lie, as what do you know, Jake turns out to be special too. If it was mired in its template, then the director's design touches lifted it to a more diverting level. Music by Michael Higham and Matthew Margeson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Tim Burton  (1958 - )

American director, producer and writer, frequently of Gothic flavoured fantasy who has acquired a cult following in spite of the huge mainstream success of many of his projects. He began as an animator at Disney, who allowed him to work on his own projects while animating the likes of The Fox and the Hound, which garnered the attention of Paul Reubens to direct Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

Next up was supernatural comedy Beetle Juice, leading to the massively hyped Batman and Batman Returns; in the middle was a more personal project, the melancholy Edward Scissorhands. Ed Wood was a biopic of the world's worst director, a flop with a loyal following, Mars Attacks was an alien invasion spoof that got lost in the Independence Day publicity, and Burton ended the 1990s with hit horror Sleepy Hollow.

The 2000s saw the poorly received Planet of the Apes remake, but Big Fish, a father and son tale more personal to the director fared better. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was unsatisfying, but a success, and Sweeney Todd was another collaboration with frequent leading man Johnny Depp. Burton hasn't turned his back on animation, mind you, with both The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride fast becoming cult favourites.

A reimagining of Alice in Wonderland rewarded him with a further hit, though again reaction was mixed, as it was with horror soap adaptation Dark Shadows and animated update Frankenweenie. He returned to biopic territory with Big Eyes, then next was young adult fantasy Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and one of those Disney juggernauts, the live action remake of Dumbo.

 
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