Review: MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 27 September 2016



Based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs, MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN tells a story about a 16-year-old teenager named Jake (Asa Butterfield), who recently lost his beloved grandfather (Terence Stamp). Prior to his mysterious death, his grandfather used to tell him bedtime stories about a peculiar orphanage in Wales. In order to seek some closures, he decides to travel to the very place and soon discovers his late grandfather was telling the truth all the while. Jake eventually get to meet the peculiar children as well as the orphanage's headmistress herself, Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and get to know their special abilities. Besides finding himself stuck in a loop on the same day in 1943, he also discovers Miss Peregrine has been trying to protect her peculiar children from the hideous monsters known as the Hollows and a group of white-eyed human forms of the Wights, led by Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson).

REVIEW: Tim Burton is no stranger to all things dark, gothic and macabre with some of his best movies ever made in his career, including BEETLEJUICE (1988) and EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990). But of late, Burton's career has been inconsistent. Although he did make an impressive comeback in the offbeat biopic BIG EYES (2014), his previous movies ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010) and DARK SHADOWS (2012) were both creative disappointments. Then along came MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN. On paper, Ransom Riggs' novel looks like a perfect fit for Tim Burton. Burton even team up with screenwriter Jane Goldman, best known for her works in KICK-ASS (2010) and X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011). Their collaboration sure sounds like a winner, but MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN doesn't exactly wind up as good as I thought.

So, what went wrong? First of all, MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN is frequently hampered by a series of long-winded scenario with Jake spending too much time asking questions after questions about the peculiars and the strange world they inhabit in the same time loop. Not to mention Jake himself is a hopelessly boring protagonist that it's difficult to root for his cause. Asa Butterfield's performance here feels stagnant while the young actors who played the peculiar children barely dig deeper beyond their surface-level performances. Eva Green, in the meantime, looks great with all the black gothic dress but her role is sadly undermined by Jane Goldman's lacklustre adapted screenplay. Despite the involvement of Tim Burton, the movie feels all too familiar without the kind of singular vision that the famously eccentric director used to have back in his heyday. Finally, the main antagonist himself -- Mr. Barron --  is nothing more than a stock villain. Although casting Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Barron sounds like a good idea, he's basically the same old Samuel L. Jackson most of us have grown accustomed to.

But not everything in this movie is a total disaster. For one thing, MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN is a whole lot better than the listless gothic drama of DARK SHADOWS. Somewhere in between, Burton still has what it takes to make a dark fantasy movie. The special effects are seamless while the final third act set in the amusement park evokes the B-movie fun of the 1963 fantasy classic JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS complete with Ray Harryhausen-like skeletal warriors fighting against the Hollows. Burton also put his trademark stop-motion animation to good use, particularly in a scene where one of the peculiars able to reanimate the lifeless dolls to kill each other. Most of his monster creation here deserves a praise as well, with the tall and faceless Hollows bears a little resemblance to the stick-thin Jake Skellington from THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993).

Tim Burton's comeback to his signature dark fantasy territory doesn't offer anything new or innovative, but MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN still delivers some of his delightful kooky trademarks.

* This review is written courtesy from 20th Century Fox Malaysia press screening *

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