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miss-peregrine
Berton’s “Miss Pere­grine’s home for peculiar children” poses a peculiar problem: it’s heavy handed with spooky eye candy but a little light on theme and content. | Coming Soon

Tim Burton’s newest film, based on Ransom Riggs’ graphic trilogy “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” delivers Hal­loween eye candy but fails to satisfy the audience with any the­matic meat to chew on.

Burton con­sol­i­dates Riggs’ thriller trilogy into a single film, a fact which will cause more cringing from fans of the books than will the dis­turbing style which has become Burton’s trademark. By com­bining color and whimsy with the macabre, Burton creates a cap­ti­vating visual paradox of unnatural and shocking beauty. In this way, the film resembles Burton’s other works (such as “Coraline,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and “Edward Scis­sorhands”), com­plete with rean­i­mated corpses, a feast of human eye­balls, and a child with a monster mouth in the back of her head. The effect is an amusing com­bi­nation of fas­ci­nation and horror: pure Burton. Though Burton delivers the sen­sa­tional visual effects which audi­ences have come to expect from his work, this film lacks the the­matic punch of his pre­vious movies, leaving the audience feeling like it’s been all show and no tell.

Viewers follow the adven­tures of Jacob Portman, played by Asa But­ter­field (from “Ender’s Game”), who is haunted by his grandfather’s bedtime stories about mon­sters with ten­tacles for tongues, children born with unnatural abil­ities, and their shape-shifting pro­tector, Miss Pere­grine. Only when he finds his grand­father dying in the backyard after suf­fering a mys­te­rious monster attack does Jacob begin to wonder whether the stories might not have been so imag­inary. With his dying breath, Jacob’s grand­father tells him to go to Wales to the home for peculiar children, where the actual Miss Pere­grine will answer all of his ques­tions. Des­perate for answers, Jacob con­vinces his skep­tical parents to take him to the island which served as the setting for all of his grandfather’s fan­tastic tales.

Once on the island, he dis­covers that the imag­inary Miss Pere­grine (Eva Green) and her children are not fiction but flesh and blood pecu­liar­ities living in a time loop in 1947. Here Burton shines in all his own peculiar glory, showing off his skills with special effects as he creates Emma, a girl so light­weight she must wear leaden shoes to stay on the ground; Myllard, an invisible boy who can only be seen when he wears his clothes; Hugh, a boy with a swarm of bees living in his belly which some­times pop out when he burps; and Enoch, a boy who has the ability to rean­imate corpses using animal hearts. Miss Pere­grine herself proudly gives Jacob a guided tour of the house and its inhab­i­tants, intro­ducing all her children like proud mother hen. In a par­tic­u­larly “Bur­tonian” scene, Enoch revives Vincent, a peculiar who was mur­dered by one of Jacob’s grandfather’s mon­sters. Miss Pere­grine has pre­served Vincent’s body in the attic with metic­ulous care, tor­tured by her one failure as a pro­tector. As the plot pro­gresses, the children and Jacob must pool their weird powers together with Miss Pere­grine in order to escape the cruel appetites and schemes of the mon­sters and their leader, Dr. Golan.

Eva Green exe­cutes a mar­vellous per­for­mance as Miss Pere­grine. With the help of several key props (such as a pipe, sweet steampunk styled attire, and a con­vincing special effects bird trans­for­mation), Green evokes the dark and quirky style of Burton while also ren­dering a maternal pathos to the role, pro­viding a beating heart to the plotline that would oth­erwise be cold as a corpse. In a sin­gu­larly poignant scene Miss Pere­grine sac­ri­fices herself for the sake of her wards. The children gather around her skirt like chicks around their strange mother-raven, and she claims with tears in her eyes, “It has been a priv­ilege to care for you all.” This scene is perhaps the only moment of effective poignancy in the whole movie, the rest is driven entirely by plot, special effects, and sub-par child actors.

The children show off their lack of acting skills in a pre­dictable and somewhat creepy child love story between Jacob and Emma, who was inter­ested in his grandpa back in the 1940s (you know, when he wasn’t old and dying in the backyard). Neither one of the actors has the chops to pull off being in love; thus the kiss at the end (oops: spoiled) comes off as just plain uncom­fortable. (Roll credits. Please.)

And though But­ter­field (Jacob Portman) looks the part of a Burton char­acter with his trans­par­ently pale skin, dark hair, and massive pools of blue eyes, he fails to animate his char­acter with any sem­blance of per­son­ality. (Somebody pass him an animal heart. By god, this kid is dead inside.) In his defense, the unin­spiring script doesn’t give him much help. Cool cos­tumes and doe eyes do not a moving romance make. As a result, the final scene, the kicker, the one that’s sup­posed to leave me with that fuzzy feeling of sat­is­faction, falls com­pletely flat.

In the end, Miss Peregrine’s char­acter offers more interest to the film in one scene than the primary plot between the children them­selves.

While flavors of Burton’s iconic style linger throughout the film, it lacks the dra­matic poignancy and the the­matic weight of his pre­vious works, leaving the audience with that unsat­is­fying post-binge feeling of too much sugar and not enough sub­stance. If you’re looking for the perfect spook-time Burton this Hal­loween, save your movie ticket dollars, snuggle up with some real junk food, and rewatch “Coraline” or “Sweeney Todd.”