Coming to theaters this Friday from director Tim Burton and 20th Century Fox comes a tale from the novel by Ransom Riggs that tells about “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Unusual Children.”
Jacob (Asa Butterfield) is a young man that knows he is a little off the beaten path. The one person that he is close to is Grandfather Abraham (Terence Stamp). From the time he was young boy, Grandfather would tell him stories of his travels and photos of the people in his life.
When Jacob receives a strange call from Grandfather Abraham, he runs over to discover a house that is ransacked. He notices a light outside and follows it into the woods where Grandpa has been attacked. Trying to tell Jacob to “find the bird” it becomes clear that they are not alone in the forest.
Days go by and Jacob is having a difficult time dealing with his Grandfather being gone. Mom (Kim Dickens) is worried and Dad Franklin (Chris O’Dowd) doesn’t seem moved by much having his own ‘daddy’ issues. Sending Jacob to see therapist Dr. Golan (Allison Janney), it is brought up that perhaps a trip to Wales were Grandfather came from will give the young boy closure he needs.
Off they go as Dad and Jacob find the little town of Cairnholm and the tavern where they will be staying. Franklin wants to go bird watching and Jacob wants to find the home his Grandfather lived in. It doesn’t take long before he meets Emma (Ella Purnell) looking exactly like the photograph – not aging one bit.
Emma takes Jacob through a portal to meet Miss Alma LeFay Peregrine (Eva Green) and she begins to explain everything. They all live in a home during World War II and Miss Peregrine has the ability to create loops that keep a day frozen in time. Keep their day safe from bombs that later drop during war is all Miss Peregrine wants to do to keep her children safe.
He also meets the other children with peculiars – Enoch (Finlay MacMillan), Olive (Lauren McCrostie), Horace (Hayden Stone), Fiona (Georgia Pemberton), Hugh – well sort of (Milo Parker), and Claire (Raffiella Chapman), Bronwyn (Pixie Davies), Millard (Cameron King), Victor (Louis Davison) and the Masked Twins (Joseph & Thomas Odwell).
There biggest fear now is Barron (Samuel L. Jackson) who is looking to destroy all the Peculiars. Jacob jumps between time keeping his father clueless and back to the home when Miss Peregrine and the children are in danger. The young man also feels strongly for Emma knowing he has to say goodbye when the time comes.
All of this is only a matter of time!
Butterfield as Jake has the right amount of empathy in his facial expressions to carry this film for the entire two hours plus. Perhaps it’s his wide-eyed wonder or his questioning eyebrows but either makes for a young man thrown between two worlds. Butterfield continues to win over audiences since “Hugo,” “Ender’s Game” and a truly stunning performance in “10,000 Saints.”
Purnell as Emma is full of sad wide-eyed wonder floating when she needs to wearing lead shoes when she doesn’t. Stamp as Grandpa Abraham pops in and out through the story as much as Jacob goes in between time.
Green as Miss Peregrine brings her growly low voice once again to this character. I really enjoy her as an actress but I have to say that typecasting is becoming closer than I care to think about. Growly has followed her through “Dark Shadows,” “300: Rise of an Empire,” “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” and the television series “Penny Dreadful.” Miss Peregrine feels a lot like the character Serafina Pekkala from “The Golden Compass” as a watchful eye over children in both cases.
Jackson as Barron is a mildly amusing character but to be honest his talking was slurred but what I can only think is really bad fitting denture prosthetics. O’Dowd as Dad Franklin provides a bland performance and I hate that because I love O’Dowd!
MacMillan, McCrostie, Stone, Pemberton, Chapman, Davies, King and Davison have each a specific peculiarity and are delightful to watch. Of course I have my favorites which are Parker as the very unseeable Hugh and the Odwell twins as the Masked Twins. I love how Hugh uses his special gifts to make me laugh and the Masked Twins keep my curiosity peaked!
Other cast include: O-Lan Jones as Shelley, Helen Day as Miss Edwards, Jennifer Jarackas as Aunt Susie, Rupert Everett as the Ornithologist and Dame Judi Dench as Miss Avocet.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Unusual Children” three and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. Each Peculiar that the children have is cool & interesting. There are some nice storylines here but there is a lot of story to tell. That explains the over two hours which started to wane on my eyes a little.
Burton is a favorite filmmaker in our household filled with “Caroline” or “Frankenweenie” or, obviously, “Nightmare Before Christmas.” This is just a good film but is it a memorable one? That will be for Burton fans to decide as this story seems right up his alley.
The film has all the trademark dark eyes, dark creatures (although they look a little like grown up versions of the Del Toro critters from “Don’t be Afraid of the Dark” from 2010), a little spookiness and a little yucky in the eye department. With Halloween right around the corner this might be the creepiness families will go for.
In the end — stay peculiar!