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Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016) — Tim Burton back to being poor

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Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Movie Review


Directed by Tim Burton (Big Eyes, Frankenweenie) and screenwritten by Jane Goldman (Kingsman, X-Men: First Class), Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is based on a novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs about a seemingly ordinary teenager named Jacob "Jake" Portman who goes to a mysterious island after the death of his grandfather who used to tell him fairytales based on his journeys. On this island, he finds out that his grandfather's fairytales may all be true as he steps into a time in the past where there's a house that a group of children born with "peculiarities" live — well, almost like mutants in Professor Charles Xavier's School for the Gifted in X-Men.

Tim Burton has made bad and decent but forgettable films in recent years and this one would fall into both of those labels. It has lazy narratives, very poor character development and lacks substance. The film doesn't even give the compelling sense of mystery like some of Burton's older works. The storytelling feels rushed and the choppy editing at the beginning doesn't help either. The protagonist Jacob, portrayed quite woodenly by Asa Butterfield (Ten Thousand Saints, Ender's Game), is immediately shown in the opening scenes that he's just a typical "high school loser" who works part-time at a hypermarket, probably has no friends and his parents suck — like we haven't already seen this a thousand times before — it could've been a prequel to Wanted (2008).

group photo Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children still

Jacob is already a boring character on his own but Burton, or the editing at least, makes no effort to allow him to connect with the audience on an emotional level. Instead, he's force-fed to the audience that he's simply the I-don't-belong-in-this-world-boo-hoo type. What frustrates the most is how easily all the peculiar children just automatically likes him without justification. And there America goes again with the son/daughter-parent's former lover relationship again. In this case, it's grandparent's lover. Come on, it's just wrong. Anyhow, the romance is so, super forced. Like oh, you're very much like your grandfather and oh, you're the only pretty girl who'd talk to me — let's make out!

Then the film goes very quickly into about how close Jacob's relationship is with his grandfather (Terence Stamp) and he dies, I couldn't feel anything about it at all. Initially I thought maybe this is going to be one of those Big Fish (2003) or Peter Pan kind of story where at the end, there's a profound meaning to all these fairytales told by his grandfather but unfortunately, there is none of that. This film is a straightforward kids' dark fantasy adventure with plenty of cliches in the formulaic final act, absent the magic that I was hoping Burton would pull out from his hat that he's probably lost along with composer Danny Elfman.

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Although plenty of peculiar characters and contents from the source material seem to be sacrificed completely, the film still couldn't get whatever it has left together without confusing messiness and a lot of verbal exposition. It doesn't play around enough with very interesting ideas like the peculiarity of the children and the time-loop premise that felt like a one-off thing in the film. We also don't get to know or see enough of these peculiar characters. Did Burton miss the point of this movie? Then there are some badly executed scenes in the last two acts where it seems that the characters are only making a situations harder for themselves. The enemy is right in front of you, Jacob. Why can't you just freaking shoot it with the crossbow you're holding?! And when that dumb climax ending comes, I finally understood that this film is probably not targeted to adults like myself.

There are only a few things that I kind of enjoyed in the film — Eva Green's performance as Miss Peregrine is awesome, Samuel L. Jackson being his usual self as the antagonist Mr. Barron is funny, and the film looks visually good (except for the CGI of the Hollowgasts) with great special effects for the peculiar abilities of the children but at least half of the cool stuff are already briefly revealed in the trailers. Besides that one disturbing aspect about eyes-eating, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is too far from being one of Burton's best or weirdest works. Tim Burton is one film away from affirming to me that he's lost his touch in making beautifully unconventional films.

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What I would've named the film: "Miss Xavier's Home for the Gifted"

Malaysian censorship: Although there's one disturbing element for kids but it's not graphic enough for our beloved board of censorship to disallow it. But I think one kiss moment may have been censored (unless that's just the actual choppy editing). Korek mata boleh, cium tak boleh!

Verdict: In some ways, it's as disappointing as Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010).

Rating: 2 / 5

Peregrine's Home Peculiar Children movie poster malaysiaBased on: 2011 novel "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" by Ransom Riggs

Genre: Dark fantasy
Running Time: 127 minutes
Director: Tim Burton
Screenwriter: Jane Goldman
Cast: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Ella Purnell,Allison Janney

Malaysia Release Date: 29 September 2016
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: 20th Century Fox Malaysia
Production: Chernin Entertainment, Tim Burton Productions, TSG Entertainment



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