On paper, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children sounds like a perfect combination of talent, material, and timing. It’s essentially an X-Men movie, in keeping with the current craze for superhero films, but one with a fanciful gothic vibe. It is directed by the master of fanciful gothic vibes, Tim Burton — who knows a thing or two about superheroes and big-budget blockbusters already. It’s led by the living Tim Burton drawings Eva Green and Asa Butterfield. Oh, and it’s based on a bestselling novel by Ransom Riggs.
In short, it has all the makings of a big hit that brings some much-needed quirkiness back to the multiplex. So why, then, does it all feel so… uninspired? So familiar? So not-very-peculiar?
Miss Peregrine opens in sleepy suburban Florida, where teenage Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield) lives a life so unremarkable he might as well not exist at all. His parents (Chris O’Dowd and Kim Dickens) barely seem to notice him; the popular kids at school certainly don’t. His closest friend might be his paternal grandfather Abraham (Terence Stamp), but sadly he is killed off by a Slenderman-like creature within the minutes of our meeting him.
As Jake struggles to come to terms with Abraham’s death — and the uneasy feeling that something isn’t quite right about it — he heads to Wales to seek out the orphanage where Abraham grew up. He soon learns, though, that it’s no ordinary children’s home. It’s a haven for “peculiar” kids with superpowers, hidden inside a time loop set to September 3, 1943 and overseen by the unflappable Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). Imagine if Mary Poppins took over Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and furnished it with wares found by searching for “steampunk” on Etsy, and you’ve more or less got the idea.
But wait, there’s more: Miss Peregrine and her children are in danger thanks to the evil Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), who commands a team of wights (evil peculiars, basically) and hollowgasts (those Slenderman-like monsters) and believes these peculiars are their key to immortality. And wouldn’t you know it, it turns out Jake has a secret of his own that might make him the peculiars’ last, best hope for survival.
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