(disclaimer: the poster used with this review is © 20th Century Fox and does not belong to me)
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, at first, does not strike me as particularly peculiar. Though a Tim Burton film, his personal flourish doesn’t seem to come into play until after Jake, our main character, has stumbled upon the Home and its inhabitants – but we’ll get to that in a moment. Miss Peregrine’s follows protagonist Jake, a something-teen who lives in Florida with parents and has what seems like a very dull day-to-day life.
This all changes when a trip to a small island off the coast of Wales starts the beginning of a life-changing adventure; he meets a group of children with various ‘peculiarities’ who live in a children’s home run by the eccentric Miss Peregrine, and takes in all of these changes with an astounding sense of ease. Though I enjoyed the mystery of the house at the beginning of the film – for the first quarter I actively wondered how Jake would reach it, and I’m glad the film’s trailer didn’t give this away – I would have liked to see more of Jake’s life in Florida before his trip to Wales.
In fact, before finding the Home, I didn’t find Jake’s Florida life particularly ‘ordinary’ (as the film likes to state it is, about three times). In Florida, it’s clear from the few scenes we see that Jake is lonely- he doesn’t have any friends, his parents don’t seem to care about him, and he’s frustrated with his elderly grandfather who told him stories of monsters as a kid. This doesn’t strike me as a particularly ‘ordinary’ upbringing; it doesn’t surprise me when Jake feels more at home with the Peculiar kids and his apparent indecision of whether to stay with them or go home is shallow at best.
When we finally meet the Home and its occupants, however, is when Tim Burton’s classic style really gets into gear. I have always enjoyed his costume choices and the aesthetic he brings to a film, and Miss Peregrine’s was no exception. The Children are quirky, interesting, and I enjoy all of the actors and actresses that play the peculiar roles. This is also true of Asa Butterfield and Ella Purnell, who play Jake and Emma, respectively, who I think do a solid, believable job with their characters and I hope to see more of both of them in the future. Saying that, it is Dame Judi Dench and Rupert Everett (who only play minor roles in the film) that steal the show for me, but maybe that’s just because I have great admiration for both of them as performers.
The only downfall in character, I think, is the casting of Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Baron as the main villain. Not to say I don’t respect Jackson – I think he is a tremendous talent – but I have seen him portray so many other characters that I couldn’t focus on him in Miss Peregrine’s for the threat he was supposed to be. Seeing Samuel L. Jackson instead of Mr. Baron as I watched the final confrontation just made it comical, and ruined my suspension of disbelief that these children were in real danger.
Overall, the film’s plot and writing was good but I didn’t think it stood out amongst it’s Y/A genre, which is a shame considering it had Jane Goldman as a screenwriter – whose other works include Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kick-Ass. Saying that, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was definitely worth a watch on the big screen; the score was great and the effects both magical and frightening in equal measure.
A thoroughly interesting, satisfying film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children had a range of eccentric, intriguing characters and a visual aesthetic Tim Burton should be proud of. With these, and its captivating plot, Miss Peregrine’s should have felt original, but unfortunately it fell short of the mark, feeling very similar to other young adult coming-of-age films I’ve seen before. Verdict: 6/10.