Thursday 16 February 2017

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Mystery. Time loops. Gifted Children. Although Miss Peregrine gives the initial vibe of a Harry Potter fanfiction, Tim Burton does Random Rig’s books justice, unlike recent flop adaptations of The Mortal Instruments, The Host and The Giver. The plot may be predictable at times and even verges on the cliché, but Burton is wonderful behind the camera and brings his signature contrast style of light and gloom with him.

Jake (Asa Butterfield from Hugo) struggles with the death of his eccentric Grandfather, Abe. Haunted by vague monster in his sleep, Jake sees a psychiatrist. Torn between the senile man his father (Chris O’Dowd) portrays his grandfather to be and the storyteller he knew him to be, Jake struggles to keep his sanity. But when a signed postcard from the woman of his bedtime stories shows up, a glimmer of hope appears. The film evolves into a story of adventure, supernatural power and envious villains. 

Eva Green (Miss Peregrine) graces the screen with a perfected English accent as a pedantic time-keeper. Return a squirrel to its nest. Fetch vegetables for supper. Destroy to protect the children. Everyone knows the repetitive daily tasks. And everyone knows not to be late. She smokes pipes, wears gorgeous gowns and can manipulate time. Her and her children find peace in a gothic home blown to pieces during the Second World War. The plot takes inspiration from Groundhog Day, as Miss Peregrine rewinds the clock every night on the same day in September 1943, a moment before destruction, to relive the same day over.

Eva is accompanied by the all-star, Samuel L. Jackson. Initially, his character seems overly-whimsical. But this is a children’s film. And the story is far from usual, so why have typical characters? He adds some much needed villain-humour to a story whose ending you may easily presuppose. Along with Chris O’Dowd’s diabolical American accent, the film has a few unanticipated laughs.

The historical references work well to tie reality to a plot that starts off rather unsteady. A lunatic and his henchmen hunt those who are different. Experiments are conducted. The hunted go into hiding. Sound familiar? Jake’s father claims Abe’s bedtimes stories to be narratives formed to make sense of his childhood during WWII. There may be no gore, but the tone is rather dark. A dead child is shown and the monsters survive by eating organs. The continuous sinister ambience is one to be avoided by very young children.

The stop motion is wonderful. Skeletons come to life to battle a legion of extended-limbed giants who are invisible to everyone bar Jake. The scene vividly resembles Burton’s trademark absurd humour and Halloween aesthetic. He handles the idea of arrested adolescence with a playful, vibrant approach that only he can succeed in.

Miss Peregrine is a rare children’s film that deals with the grown up topics of acceptance, love and bravery. The plot is rather sad and troubling, but it is also the perfect story for Burton’s taste and style. This film is the perfect introduction to the mysterious, dark fiction of Tim Burton.


Cayleigh Chan

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