There may be much to dislike in the film adaptation of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” but then again, there’s so much more to like. My brother and I walked out of the theater in love with this strange world, even though anything resembling horror—even watered-down horror and Tim Burton-esque creepiness—tends to scare us away.
I did not read the books (written by Ransom Riggs), so I entered the universe as a stranger. The film panders to viewers like me—much of the time is spent with Asa Butterfield’s character, Jake, demanding explanations from new acquaintances Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell) and Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). The reason behind the secrecy and withholding of information is contrived, merely for the pace of the storyline, but it’s so delightful to roam about and discover peculiarities about the world that I hardly minded.
When Jake’s grandfather (Terence Stamp) mysteriously dies, Jake begins to see visions of monsters. His psychiatrist chalks it up to his imagination but Jake starts to wonder if the bedtime stories his grandfather told him were, in fact, real. After traveling to an island in Wales to investigate the children’s home his grandfather grew up in, he meets the peculiar children and their caretaker, Miss Peregrine. Their way of life is put in danger by evil Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), who is after peculiars for a specific reason, and Jake is the only one who can save everyone.
There are delightful twists scattered throughout the fairly straightforward plot (if you take time travel out of the equation), but the movie’s strengths lie in the aesthetics of the peculiarities. Aesthetics of not only everything that is CGI but also the cast themselves—Butterfield’s unique features, Purnell’s huge wide eyes, and Green’s angles. It’s the perfect project for Burton. Though it’s not as dark as expected, his essence clearly shines from the clunky movement of murderous dolls to a mouth on the back of a girl’s head to the Slender Man inspired, long-legged Hollows. There are endearing moments of otherworldly horror that draw you in and keep you rooting for these characters.
Yes, the dialogue is insufferable and the character development is minimal, but the conventions of the universe satiate a search for the strange. And though she didn’t have much to work off of script-wise, Green gives a riveting performance as Miss Peregrine in her every sharp look and piercing glare, maintaining a sense of authority that even shuts up the bad guy momentarily. Jackson is perfect parts psychopathic, bloodthirsty, and hilarious, earning loud laughs from the audience.
Purists of the book may whine about changes, but at the end of the day, the film is engaging, cinematic and dramatic. Coupled with a sense of humor, wonder, and danger, the film’s whimsical eeriness makes for a thoroughly enjoyable, albeit bizarre, two hours in the theater.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” arrives in theaters on Sept. 30.