First thing's first, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children isn't Tim Burton's next classic. By no means does it hit the depths of Dark Shadows but neither does it reach the lofty heights of Edward Scissorhands and his other superior early work. The film is as visually sumptuous as we've come to expect from Burton, but a messy, overstuffed narrative, which provides nothing more than a mildly entertaining encounter, taints it.
When his oddball grandfather (Terence Stamp) passes away in mysterious circumstances, Californian introvert Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield) travels to Wales for answers. Soon enough, Jake discovers an extraordinary orphanage his grandfather had claimed to have lived in via a time loop, which transports him from 2016 to 1943. There, he befriends the specially gifted children of the orphanage and their guardian Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). Miss Peregrine is an 'Ymbryne', a rare type of peculiar who has the ability to transform into a bird as well as create time loops. These loops keep the children safe in a single continually repeating day. However, the children's safe haven is under threat by the shape-shifting Mr Barron (Samuel L Jackson) and his entourage of faceless, tentacled, long-limbed hollowgasts, who have an unquenchable hunger for peculiars' eyeballs.
The film is based on a novel by Ransom Riggs which seems perfectly suited to Burton's eccentric style but instead his trademark oddity feels surprisingly dialled down and restricted by a surplus of exposition. Screenwriter Jane Goldman attempts to cram a lot of ideas and details into the narrative but the film is frequently bogged down by hefty moments of exposition dumping and by an uncertain, meandering storyline. Consequently, the story never quite connects and it's hard to feel properly engaged. This is exacerbated by a confused handling of the time loops which makes it difficult to keep up with exactly what the hell is going on.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is at its best when focusing on the intriguing, unique children and the exchanges between them. Each is vividly brought to life, from a young girl with hidden gnashers at the back of her head to a girl lighter than air who wears weighted boots to stop her floating away. They’re a suitably kooky, uncanny bunch that unfortunately cause Jake to appear as a rather bland hero, despite the best efforts of Butterfield. Green emerges as the real star of the show, putting in an impressively quirky, absorbing and layered performance as the children's crossbow-wielding guardian. Jackson also has a blast as the deliciously wicked, eyeball-devouring villain and together the pair deliver enough alluring character moments to keep the film afloat.
Unsurprisingly, this fantastical world is brought to life with marvellous wonder and aplomb. The hollowgasts' design is particularly effective with their genuinely unsettling facelessness and terrifying tentacled mouths. Altogether, it's very much a stop and go affair in which Burton has successfully crafted some interesting characters and memorable images, but fails to place them into the coherent, concise narrative they deserve.
MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN / CERRT: 12A / DIRECTOR: TIM BURTON / SCREENPLAY: JANE GOLDMAN / STARRING: EVA GREEN, ASA BUTTERFIELD, CHRIS O'DOWD, JUDI DENCH, SAMUEL L. JACKSON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating – 7/10