Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

For years, Abe Portman (Terence Stamp) has told stories to his 20-year old grandson, Jake (Asa Butterfield), about his childhood battling monsters and spending part of World War II living at “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by the coast of Wales. The home’s residents and their headmistress, Miss Alma Peregrine (Eva Green), possess paranormal abilities and are known as “Peculiars”. After receiving a frantic phone call from his grandfather, Jake and his drugstore coworker Shelly (O-Lan Jones) rush to Abe’s house. In the woods nearby, Jake finds his grandfather collapsed with his eye sockets empty, and he tells Jake to find “the bird, the loop and September 3, 1943”, before dying.

Following the advice of his psychiatrist, Dr. Golan (Allison Janney), and finding a letter from Miss Peregrine to Abe, Jake and his father Frankiln (Chris O’Dowd) travel to Wales. Jake explores the island and finds out the children’s home was destroyed during a Luftwaffe raid. As he explores the house, some of the Peculiar Children from Abe’s stories greet him.

The children take Jake through a cave and he finds himself in 1943; they take him back to their intact house, where Miss Peregrine greets him. She explains that she belongs to a class of female Peculiars named “Ymbrynes”, who have the power to transform into birds (in Miss Peregrine’s case, a peregrine falcon) and manipulate time, creating time loops. Miss Peregrine has her loop permanently set to September 3, 1943, in which she and her children hide from the outside world.

Jake is introduced to the rest of the children, including aerokinetic Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell), a 19-year old girl lighter than air, and necromancer Enoch O’Connor (Finlay MacMillan). He learns that one of the children, super-strong Victor Bruntley (Louis Davinson), was killed by an invisible monster called a “Hollowgast”, or “Hollow”. Jake discovers that he himself is a Peculiar; like his grandfather, he can see Hollows. Miss Peregrine explains that Hollows are Peculiars who were transformed by a failed experiment by tapping an Ymbryne’s power in hopes of becoming immortals. Led by shapeshifter Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), they hunt Peculiars to consume their eyeballs enough to became “Wights”, visible Peculiars with milky-white eyes.

As Emma is walking Jake back to the cave, they find a wounded Ymbryne named Miss Avocet (Judi Dench) in avocet bird form. Emma takes her to the children’s home. Jake discovers another letter from Abe to Miss Peregrine, revealing that Mr. Barron is stalking a time loop at Blackpool, England in January 2016 created by Miss Avocet. She reveals to Miss Peregrine, Jake and the children that Barron raided her loop, killed her children and is trying to repeat his experiment with more Ymbrynes. Worried, Miss Peregrine decides to move out with her children and Miss Avocet.

Back in 2016, Jake realizes earlier that a Hollow might be close when a flock of sheep and a blind old man mysteriously die. Jake goes back to the cave to warn his friends, but he’s followed by another visitor on the island, ornithologist John Lemmon (Rupert Everett), who goes through the loop with him. He transforms into Dr. Golan and reveals to be Mr. Barron. He tried to get information about Miss Peregrine’s loop from Abe, but his Hollow companion Mr. Malthus knocked out Abe before he could answer. He posed as Dr. Golan and encouraged Jake to visit the island, hoping he would guide him to the loop. Taking Jake to the house as a hostage, Barron forces Miss Peregrine to come with him and leaves her children, Jake and Miss Avocet for their own safety.

Malthus’ “past self” arrives and kills Miss Avocet, but Jake and the children escape just as the Luftwaffe raid destroys the house and kills Malthus. Without Miss Peregrine the loop closes, leaving the children and Jake in 1943. Jake and the children travel on a sunken ocean liner to the Blackpool loop to rescue Miss Peregrine. They use their abilities to fight and kill Barron’s Hollow and Wight accomplices. Jake frees Miss Peregrine and other captive Ymbrynes. Barron tries to pose as Jake to confuse the children, but when the last remaining Hollow arrives, Jake avoids the Hollow, which kills Barron before being in turn killed by Jake.

Jake says goodbye to the children and returns to the present world in Florida, relenting his adventures to Abe alive and well; Malthus’ death erased his murder of Abe from the future. Abe gives him a map of time loops all over the world, allowing Jake to reunite with his friends again. Jake and Emma confess their feelings for each other, and Miss Peregrine in peregrine form follows them on their ship, looking for another time loop

REVIEW:

There was a time when Tim Burton owned the gothic sci-fi genre. Not sure where or when it happened, but his “followers” either turned on him or just lost interest. Some would even go so far as to say that they grew up. With Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Burton is hoping to return to his roots and gain a new audience. Will he be successful?

What is this about?

When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that spans different worlds and times, he finds a magical place known as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. But the mystery and danger deepen as he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers… and their powerful enemies. Ultimately, Jacob discovers that only his own special “peculiarity” can save his new friends.

What did I like?

Back in time. The past always fascinates me, especially WWII era. When I saw that this film would be going back to my favorite era, I couldn’t contain myself. Even more impressive to me was how they managed to go back there, but still keep everything modern. That is to say, there was no one making fun of old customs, mannerisms, etc. As a matter of fact, had it not been for the war planes and swing tunes, you wouldn’t have been able to really tell what year it was.

Creature feature. A good creature can go a long way towards making or breaking a flick. These hollowgasts, as they are called, are just scary enough to keep children up at night. The design reminds me of a mixture between Slender Man and something from Silent Hill, pardon me for forgetting the monster’s name. An effective mix, when all is said and done, though, and we get plenty of them in the climactic scene.

Stop motion. Earlier today, I was watching another of Tim Burton’s films, Frankenweenie. The brilliant use of stop motion in the film leads me to believe Ray Herryhausen would be proud. Burton is a lover of the stop motion technique, much as I am, and it should really come as no surprise that he inserts some stop motion in this film. Sure, it is a short segment, involving toy like creatures brought to life only to fight to the death, but those few seconds are brilliant and painstakingly done. I appreciate them, if no one else does.

What didn’t I like?

Wasted potential. Looking at the cast for this film, I find myself wondering who owed whom a favor and how many zeroes had to be added on to the original number for some of these actors to appear in this flick, because it is clear that they have no business being here. Judi Dench, who is perhaps the biggest culprit, seemed to show up, film her scenes in a day and leave. There was no point to casting someone of her caliber in this role. Samuel L. Jackson just signs on to any and everything these days, but with this character, I felt he was being held back. Had he truly let go, there might have been a memorable villain in there. The list goes on and on, I’m afraid. Such a shame!

Peregrine. When you are the titular character, one would expect that you would have something more to do with the film than a couple of smirks, a peek at your pocket watch, and a few other quirky moves, but that is pretty much all we get from Eva Green’s Miss Peregrine. Not having read the book, I can’t tell you if she’s supposed to be more Nanny McPhee or Count Olaf, but one thing is for certain, she is quite different. I just with the film would have spent more time introducing us to her, rather than wasting a good hour or so on Jake.

Look alike. Tim Burton is known for casting Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in his film, especially of late. Neither makes an appearance in this one however, I couldn’t help but notice a striking similarity between the actress that play Emma, Ella Purnell and Helena Bonham Carter. The look is almost creepy, especially when it hits you that Burton and Carter recently divorced.

Final verdict on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? Truth be told, I was expecting something more like the Harry Potter films rather than a more serious Big Fish. The peculiarities of the children are great, but to me, they come off as the rejected X-men sketches. I went into this expecting more fantasy, especially from a director like Burton. I was severely disappointed. This is not a bad film, but it is not that I would recommend, unless you want to sit in a theater for over 2 hrs hoping something interesting happens.

3 out of 5 stars

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