Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children follows a young man who witnesses the bizarre death of his beloved grandfather. The old man leaves clues for his grandson to discover what appears to be a parallel universe; there, he meets a bunch of misfit kids with abilities, a 1940s incarnation of Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters, where Professor X is replaced by a pipe-smoking Eva Green with an unwavering stare. This emo Mary Poppins manipulates time loops and defends her school from the attacks of an eyeball-chewing Samuel L. Jackson and his Slenderman army.
The premise of Ransom Riggs’ YA novel of the same name seems tailor-made for Tim Burton’s eccentric sensibilities. Then again, the same could have been said for his coupling with Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Sadly, the director’s surprisingly conventional execution has once again let down a very promising set-up. Some of his trademark flourishes work – specifically when it comes to characters like the floating girl and the Edward Mordrake-like scamp with jaws in the back of her head – but Burton and screenwriter Jane Goldman can’t prevent the film from falling between two stools: its compellingly dark moments are dialled down by the trepidatious need to pander to the YA crowd. What remains is the niggling sensation that what this dull and imbalanced adaptation needed was a director like Guillermo del Toro, who would more likely have committed to the gothic scariness instead of playing it safe.
While not as dire as Dark Shadows or Alice In Wonderland, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children crumbles under the weight of too many underdeveloped plot-threads and its bloated runtime. As for its wearily familiar third act, its grating techno-inspired soundtrack will make you seriously feel the absence of Burton’s regular composer Danny Elfman. Worse, this lesser effort highlights that the filmmaker seems to have misplaced his own set of peculiar powers, having fallen back on a series of visual tics that fail to enchant or linger in the mind.
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children | Directed by Tim Burton (USA, 2016) with Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson. Starts October 6.