Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children - This Movie Burton Rocks! Which Is A Good Thing
Dir: Tim Burton
Starring Eva Green. Asa Butterfield, Samuel L Jackson, Judi Dench, Chris O'Dowd, Terrence Stamp, Rupert Everett, Alison Janney
The nod to the topiary in the gardens of the Home kind of gives it away. This is Burton back in Burton country. And how incredibly welcome is that?
Tim Burton has always been a profoundly individual filmmaker. But one who needs to find a true connection with his material. He has always found it in the outsider, whether they be Edward Scissorhands or Batman. In tackling Alice – which in retrospect we wish he hadn’t – it’s no surprise he focused more on the Hatter than he did the heroine.
But too often of late, the man’s material did not match his talent. For every wonderful Depp-outing like Sweeny Todd there was a Depp-outing like Dark Shadows. For every Big Fish there was Marky Mark on the Planet of the Apes (please, please, bleach our minds!)
But in tackling Ransom Riggs’ YA best-seller, the filmmaker has found material that he finally, and fully, connects with once again. You could label Miss Perigrine’s Home a UK Charles Xavier School For The Gifted (something exacerbated by having been screen written by First Class’ Jane Goldman) but in the hands of Burton, it becomes so much more than that.
In short, Burton is on turf here that he not only understands, but has often owned. And shaped. Thus, Asa Butterfield’s young Jake fids himself off the coast of Wales and somewhere in 1943, caught in a time loop that his dying grandfather Terrence Stamp has guided him to. Here he finds a school full of children with “peculiar” abilities – from manipulating air to extreme strength to invisibility to a mouth in the back of your head to a power over root vegetables. It’s a unique world and one that is presided over by the great Eva Green as the pipe smoking/part-time bird Miss Peregrine. (After her remarkable three years on Penny Dreadful, surely Eva Green should be cast in just about everything these days.)
As Burton carefully walks Butterfield through this amazing world, said world becomes delightfully realised. The detail is delicious, creating a film that will work for children – but may occasionally scare the bejesus out of them at certain key moments (as well it should.)
This is Tim Burton back at his full powers for the most part. The third act – which decamps to Blackpool, Tower and pier both, is both delightfully full of excessive imagination and a touch too much – largely the fault of indulging Sam Jackson to the point of losing the film’s real sense of fear (much as Jackson’s OTT turn in Kingsman did – another Goldman screenplay.)
But these are ultimately minor concerns. What Burton and co have delivered here is a children’s film for all ages, full of heart and full of unpleasantness. It is not the stuff of nightmares, but it certainly knows where nightmares start from.
Good to have you back Tim – didn’t realise who much we’d missed you.
Follow us on Twitter @lastwordonearth