Jake (Asa Butterfield) is a typical teenager living in Florida with his dad Frank (Chris O’Dowd) and mom Maryann (Kim Dickens). Jake feels unnoticed by his schoolmates and largely ignored by his family. The only person he feels really close to is his grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp). Jake gets a frantic phone call from Abe ranting about him being in danger and unable to protect himself without his gun. When Jake arrives, his grandfather’s house has been ransacked and Abe is lying in the woods behind his house with his eyes missing. Abe begs Jake to follow a map and go on a quest of some sort. Jake doesn’t understand and is so shocked he thinks he sees a giant monster wondering in the woods. Thinking he’s crazy, Jake sees Dr. Golan (Allison Janney), a psychiatrist, who suggests Jake and his father travel to the Welsh island where Abe lived for several years during WWII at a home for orphaned children. Abe had told stories about the incredible woman that ran the home and the unusual children that lived there. Arriving on the island, Jake explores the dilapidated home that was hit during a German bombing raid. There he finds old pictures of the former residents…then one is standing in front of him looking the same as in the picture. Freaking out, Jake runs away but knocks himself out. He awakens being carried across the shoulder of a six-year old girl. Set on the ground, Jake finds himself face to face with the children his grandfather had told him about. They lead him through a cave and he walks out into a completely different world. The bombed out house is good as new and he’s greeted at the door by Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and is introduced to her group of peculiar children.
There is a great deal more to the story of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” including time loops, 20-foot tall creatures with sharp, jagged teeth and tentacles emanating from their mouths and a group of people looking for eternal life that eat the eyeballs of “peculiars.” This group is led by Mr. Barron played by Samuel L. Jackson wearing a “Don King” fright wig and chewing enough scenery to require a dentist visit to remove the splinters from his gums. In the hands of Tim Burton, a director known for his films about outsiders looking for acceptance and his visual flare, the movie should have leapt off the screen and wowed us while also moving us to tears. It does neither.
The look of the film is not the problem. Burton and his talented effects crew have created a stunning visual world filled with oddities and surprises. From ornate lead shoes to topiary, there’s very little about “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” that isn’t eye catching. Eva Green’s hairstyle, with whirls, odd points and a blue tint, manages to even provide some entertainment as I wondered how and why they made it look that way.
What comes up short is the emotion, the heart, the desire to feel anything about these children in their odd situation. The story is very predictable and feels like all the passion and energy was left on the pages of the graphic novel on which it is based. Other films based on books, like the “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” series, manage to convey the intensity of feeling the characters are experiencing and allowed the audience to feel it too. Perhaps the subject matter “Miss Peregrine’s…” was a bit too whimsical and light to translate from the page to the screen. In any case, the movie merely fills the eyes and not the soul.
It doesn’t help that Asa Butterfield either isn’t a very good actor or was horribly miscast. He looks confused through most of the movie and rarely expresses what appears to be the proper emotion. It’s almost like his response to events occurs half a second later than it should. Seen over and over again, this slight delay becomes increasingly obvious and annoying.
I could go on about the cast, giving each member either their props or comeuppance; however, the only person in this rather large assemblage of actors that really stands out is Samuel L. Jackson and it’s for all the wrong reasons. Jackson seems to be playing a slightly amped up version of himself we see in the Capital One credit card commercials. He’s showboating in a fairly small role to I suppose try and make the part bigger simply by making the character bigger. All he manages to do is stick out like a sore thumb and seem like the wrong actor for the part.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is rated PG-13 for violence and peril and intense fantasy action. There are a couple of scenes showing a character with the eyes removed from the sockets. There is some scary long-legged monsters shown chasing after the children. One character takes hearts and implants them in both dead and inanimate objects, bringing them to life briefly. Some monsters are shot in the head with a crossbow. There is no foul language.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” isn’t a terrible movie. It just isn’t terribly memorable. It looks amazing and features some interesting ideas in regards to people with unique abilities. What it doesn’t do is really strike deep in the heart of the audience and make us care about what happens to the denizens of this peculiar world.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” gets three apathetic stars out of five.
Three new movies hope you feel anything but apathetic about seeing them in the theatre. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:
Birth of a Nation—
The Girl on the Train—
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life—
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