Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children review: weird but winning

Featuring floating girls and knife-fighting homunculi , Tim Burton’s take on the popular young-adult novel is lovely to look at – and great fun

Film Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O'Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson

Genre: Fantasy

Running Time: 127 min

Thu, Sep 29, 2016, 16:15

   

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: an ordinary, put-upon kid discovers that his life is not so ordinary after all, and, parallel to our dreary world, there’s an unseen magical realm, if you only know the right places to look.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children starts out looking like so many other post-Harry Potter franchise wannabes.The plot is certainly not unlike such recent mega-flops as Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

When Jake’s beloved grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp) is killed by something that looks like a monster, the youngster follows the maps Abe left behind. Accompanied by his mostly unhelpful dad (Chris O’Dowd), he journeys to Wales and finds the titular institution.

The odd facility is run by a pipe-smoking, shapeshifting Eva Green, and populated by such carnivalesque alternatively talented youths as lighter-than-air Emma (Ella Purnell), pyrokinetic Olive (Lauren McCrostie) budding necromancer Enoch (Finlay MacMillan), super-strong Bronwyn, invisible Millard, and Hugh (Milo Parker), who is part boy, part beehive.

A great deal of screen time goes to exposition and universe rules. An inevitable third act – resembling a Victorian freak- show X-Men spin-off – sees the Peculiars going to war with properly scary, eyeball-consuming monsters, led by Samuel L Jackson at his most shouty and intimidating.

On paper, it might be just another damp Young Adult squib. In execution, it’s a lovely, fun thing. Many noted the resemblance between Ransom Riggs’s source novel and Tim Burton’s creations for his illustrated 1997 poetry collection The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories.

It seems only right that Burton direct the film. Working from a screenplay by the reliable Jane Goldman, the filmmaker makes merry with post-Giger uglies and the Blackpool pier.

It’s recognisably Burton – pink flamingos in suburban Florida, pocket-watch Victoriana – yet the director has pulled back from the stripy-tights art design that characterised Sweeney Todd and Dark Shadows, films that could easily have been mistaken for an evacuated steampunk convention.

DOP Bruno Delbonnel (Amélie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) is equally restrained. The comparatively grounded aesthetic proves wise: floating girls and knife-fighting homunculi are already fantastic enough.

For once, we keenly await the sequel.