All photos courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
Tim Burton’s movies have always been filled with a fantastically Goth quirkiness that bleeds through the screen with utter delight. But as of late, his Burton-isms are nothing but cosmetic distractions to his painfully dull movies — and MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN is the latest in his collection of lifeless pics.
Adapted from the Ransom Riggs best-selling novel, the story follows Jacob (Asa Butterfield), an awkward outcast teen living in Florida who, with the help of his eccentric grandfather (Terence Stamp), discovers clues to a mystery on a small island off the coast of Wales that spans alternate realities and times which leads him to a secret refuge known as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. There he meets Miss Perigrine herself (Eva Green) as well as a group of young people who have unusual abilities — and not cool superhero powers like the X-Men — but very bizarre abilities. Some are extraordinary like Emma Bloom’s (Ella Purnell) weightlessness and her ability to control air, while some — like Hugh Apiston (Milo Parker) who always has a mouthful of bees, have less-than-extraordinary (sometimes useless) abilities. During his time with these peculiar children and Miss Peregrine, he realizes that they are in danger and he may have an unusual ability to help save them and himself — but definitely not this movie.
There’s an obvious parallel between this and the X-Men mythology; except this is more Victorian and freakshow-esque rather than a blatant metaphor for civil rights. The screenwriter, Jane Goldman, had a hand in writing X-Men: Days of Future Past as well as X-Men: First Class, which seems like a perfect fit, but the film itself was bloated with explanation, backstory, failed attempts at character development — it was just all over the place. Considering its turbulent attempt to fit so many bullet points in the span of 127 minutes, it makes me believe that the source material is dense with crucial information that was too much for this adaptation to handle. The result was an ambitious, yet shoddily-executed story that Mr. Burton phoned in.
Miss Peregrine is excruciatingly flat and fails to put the “fantastic” in “fantastical.” Much of it has to do with the Burton (which we will get to later) and the leading young man, Butterfield. The actor carried his robotic character of Ender in Ender’s Game into this film, providing a performance that lacked charm, weight, and a modicum of a personality. As a child actor, Butterfield had a sweet and wide-eyed presence in films like Hugo and Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but now he is old enough to know that this performance felt as if he was a cardboard cut-out of himself reading lines off of cue cards for the first time.
As endearing and adorable as the kids are, they are mediocre wallpaper that fades into the background of this over stylized dollhouse. Samuel L. Jackson as the white-eyed main baddie chews up the scenery with his jagged teeth, while Green’s version of the bird-morphing timekeeper Peregrine isn’t too far off from what she has played in the past: a severe Goth-like female with just enough whimsy to make her approachable and fun for cosplay ideas. But it isn’t the characters that fail this movie, it’s the general direction and flailing story. Between the time travel, alternate realities, and these things called “loops,” too much is shoehorned in and the rules of this world lack clarity and therefore makes it difficult for the audience to suspend disbelief, let alone enjoy the movie.
Ever since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Burton’s track record has been rocky. However, he has delivered a handful of decent standouts between now and then including Corpse Bride, Frankenweenie, and Sweeney Todd, but other than that, his films have been soulless and wildly uninspired. It’s as if he doesn’t care anymore — which is painful to say about the man who ushered us into the magical fantasy that is Edward Scissorhands. Not since the ’90s, has his films had an emotionally-connected, respectable point of view that wasn’t eclipsed by an outlandish piece of CGI’d macabre scenery that took a team of 50 graphic artists and $500,000 to create.
From the performances to the sloppy story to the general lack of thoughtfulness, Miss Peregrine is one disappointment and frustration after another. Like a book of really expensive paper dolls, Miss Peregrine is pretty to look at and play with, but it’s also flat, one-dimensional, and ultimately, disposable.
Running time: 127 minutes
Dino-Ray Ramos watches too much TV, enjoys reality singing competitions and laughs inappropriately during dramatic films. He’s a fan of comedy, podcasts, and comedy podcasts. He’s a reformed comic book geek and thinks “The Goonies” is the best movie of all time. When he isn’t stuffing his face with a burrito, he’s thinking about his next trip to Disneyland.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer