By Lisa Nault
A tale of magic, identity, and peculiarity is what the film “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” promised audiences. Instead, viewers are given a dull main character, thrown- away side characters, and a cliché plot.
This review is solely critiquing the film and is not comparing it to Ransom Riggs’ novel of the same title. The basic premise of the film centers around a boy, Jake, who has recently lost a family member and takes a trip to Wales to learn more about their past. It is there that he discovers Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children; a place where children who have special abilities live. These abilities include invisibility, reanimation, being practically weightless, and more.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” had the potential to be a better film. The main actor who plays Jake is Asa Butterfield. Butterfield has been in several films before and has been exceptional in more than one role. He is most well known for playing the leads in Hugo, Ender’s Game, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. He is a talented actor who has a complete emotional range- a fact a viewer would miss if watching him for the first time in this film.
Butterfield’s character is flat and boring. Throughout the film, Butterfield makes the same “deer caught in headlights” expression as a reaction to everything. Jake sees a giant monster––his eyes are wide open. He sees normal teenagers––eyes are wide open. He just walks in the yard––eyes are wide open.
Whether it was poor directorial decisions, bad writing of the character, or his own choices, Butterfield produced a tedious main character that viewers felt nothing for. The only striking aspect Butterfield brought to the film were his eyes, which the costume team did a great job of highlighting.
Practically every other character was more intriguing than Jake, yet they have barely any screen time. The only other character who matches his screen time is Ella Purnell as Emma, the girl who can fly, but she is barely any better than Jake.
Emma is portrayed as a girl who has had her heart broken and will never get close to anyone again, but she obviously falls for Jake. The film even points out how obvious it is with commentary from other characters. Other than her position as love interest, Emma is a bland character who also looks dramatically with her eyes open wide when she sees things.
She may have powers but they are inconsistent throughout the film: one moment she needs lead boots to keep her to the ground or someone tightly holding a rope attached to her and the next moment she just needs to slightly hold onto a strand of ivy as she looks over a wall.
The movie would have been much more enjoyable if Eva Green, as Miss Peregrine, were in the feature more. She has plenty of screentime, but the majority of it is only exposition; and then as soon as the action starts and the plot moves forward she is nowhere. She has an interesting personality, a cool style, and remains mysterious even after she explains everything. She grabs the audience’s attention.
Samuel L. Jackson also should have been in the movie more as the villainous Barron. He is charming and had a dark, witty sense of humor. He has the best lines in the feature; audiences left theaters still laughing at his commentary during the most climactic scene.
As a villain he was okay, a bit frustrating in his inability to do anything during the climax, but by no means terrible.
The rest of the cast, peculiar or not, were given a characteristic or two and then barely shown again. Horace projects images and likes fashion. Hugh is made from bees. Jake’s father likes bird watching. These characters could have been developed more and the younger peculiar children could have been more prominently featured.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is directed by Tim Burton, a master at the art of film. Burton made the feature visually appealing with his intricate style of both saturating some colors and desaturating others.
However, when he implements special effects into his work it takes the audience out of the story. The movie’s monster creatures looks like a Slender Man rip-off. As a result, the visuals could not save the feature from the terrible plot.
The plot is stereotypical: boy who appears normal but does not fit in with peers finds peculiar people and discovers he is special. Boy meets girl and instantly they fall for each other. Boy suddenly must become a hero to save his mentor. It has been done before. The plot is also unable to keep track of everyone in the story.
For example, Jake needs the invisible boy to do a certain task, but the boy does nothing. Later, a villain jumps up onto a higher location during a battle and stays there for several minutes without doing anything.
Tim Burton is a wonderful director and Asa Butterfield is a talented actor, but neither live up to expectations in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
It may be an okay movie to just watch when someone is bored, but it is not worth the price of theater tickets. Save your money; wait to see the movie on DVD, or better yet, avoid it completely.