That this adaptation is highly stylish is hardly surprising; that its quite so charming and funny is. Plus, Samuel L Jackson eats a whole bowl of childrens eyeballs
Film-goers have endured such a punishing onslaught of young adult adaptations, its enough to make you want to sulk and dream of escaping into some sort of fantasy realm. Think back, if you can, to recent duds like The Mortal Instruments: City of Bone, The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials or, Rowling help us, that second Twilight film, before they wised-up and added a bit of intentional camp. Survivors of this cinematic drudgery (and there ought to be support groups) have been wondering just what would happen if you took one of these wholly by-the-numbers affairs and hired a director who at least had a little bit of style. With Tim Burton behind the camera, and the always-sharp screenwriter Jane Goldman keeping him on course, we have our answer in Miss Peregrines Home For Peculiar Children.
The source material is a whopper of an elevator pitch: X-Men done up all British and gloomy and gothic. (If Winona Ryders Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice read comics when she was 13, theyd have been something like this.) To add additional spin, our young English mutants are caught up in a Groundhog Day of their own creation, so we get the playfulness of seeing quirky magic powers mixed with the familiarity of how a time loop plays out. Add in Burtons authorial visual stamp and what weve got is an extremely pleasing formula. It gels as Tim Burtons best (non-musical) live-action movie for 20 years.
Thats a lot of modifiers for a compliment, but I do want to manage expectations. The plot is extremely predictable and the third acts action set-pieces, even with a loving homage to Ray Harryhausen, seems to go on forever. Asa Butterfield is quite good as Jake, a nervous dreamer whose voice couldnt get any lower if it were in his shoes. Out of place in the tacky, palm-tree dotted Florida (Burtons aesthetic has always mixed in pink flamingo camp with Hammer Films castles) Jake follows the maps left behind by his dead grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp), a Polish refugee who spent the war at the domicile referenced in the films title.
Run by Eva Green, who smokes a pipe and looks as if shes just heard a joke she mustnt share, the home (on a small island off the coast of Wales) is a safe haven for kids with strange abilities. Some are more standard superhero than others would you like the ability to be invisible or to manipulate air, or would you like to have bees living in your mouth or the capacity to grow root vegetables with tremendous speed? Jake, with his dad (the always wonderful Chris ODowd) visit the island at the suggestion of Jakes therapist (Allison Janney) and its there that hes able to enter Miss Peregrines hidden time loop.
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