“You don’t have to make us feel safe, because you’ve made us feel brave,” says Emma Bloom.
I have had a fondness for Tim Burton’s movies for as long as I can remember. From Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure to Edward Scissorhands to Sleepy Hollow to Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to Big Eyes, Burton has been a champion of the outsider. His latest film definitely fits in with his body of work, but surprisingly can also be considered a kind of superhero film (it features young people with special abilities who live in a house designated for those with special abilities, and they must come together to stop a threat from a different group of people with special abilities, so in a way Burton has essentially made his own kind of X-Men film). I recently saw Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children on the big screen, and it was a very enjoyable experience.
2016’s Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children follows a teenager as he embarks on a journey to discover the truth behind his grandfather’s fantastical stories. His journey involves time loops, young people with peculiar abilities, and dangerous creatures called Hollows. Burton brought together a terrific ensemble that included Eva Green (as Alma Peregrine), Asa Butterfield (as Jake Portman), Chris O’Dowd (as Franklin Portman), Terence Stamp (as Abraham Portman), Samuel L. Jackson (as Mr. Barron), Allison Janney (as Dr. Golan), Judi Dench (as Esmeralda Avocet), Rupert Everett (as John Lemmon), Ella Purnell (as Emma Bloom), Finlay MacMillan (as Enoch O’Connor), Lauren McCrostie (as Olive Abroholos Elephanta), Kim Dickens (as Maryann Portman), and O-Lan Jones (as Shelly). Butterfield is engaging as the young protagonist trying to reconcile his grandfather’s past while becoming aware of the dangers that threaten his life and the other Peculiars. Green is perfectly cast as Peregrine, a source of calm, stability, and protection. Stamp shines as Jake’s grandfather, whose stories about the Peculiars drive Jake’s journey to England. Jackson is a scene-stealer as the main antagonist who plots to destroy all Peculiars in the hope of regaining his humanity.
Burton works his usual magic and the results are spectacular (who doesn’t love the battle between the skeletons and the Hollows?). The screenplay by Jane Goldman (based on the novel by Ransom Riggs) balances the family drama with the humor and scares. Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography matches the dark tone of the film, and Gavin Bocquet’s production design is immense (from the home itself to becoming almost another character to a variety of locales in different time periods). Colleen Atwood’s costume designs range from 1940s garb to present day (Green’s outfit is quite striking), and Chris Lebenzon’s editing keeps the film moving along nicely. The special effects are first-rate and definitely show Burton’s influence. Mike Higham and Matthew Margeson, rather than Burton regular Danny Elfman, contribute a dramatic, zany score that balances the drama and action. Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a fun adaptation of a young adult novel (which is refreshing for a change) infused with Burton’s distinctive style and features winning performances especially from Green, Butterfield, Stamp, and Jackson.