Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Tim Burton

Starring

Asa Butterfield Eva Green Samuel L Jackson

Anticipation.

His last few were so-so, but you never know with Tim Burton…

Enjoyment.

At times enchanting, infuriating at others.

In Retrospect.

As with so many of Burton’s worlds, you’ll be glad you visited but reluctant to return.

Tim Burton’s latest is an enchanting YA fairy tale that sadly outstays its welcome.

Let’s pretend for a moment that Tim Burton, possibly as a result of being stuck in some sort of time loop for several decades, burst onto the scene today as a first-time filmmaker. How would we react to something like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? And what would we make of its idiosyncratic director? Both would surely stand out against the homogenised, sanitised landscape of contemporary mainstream cinema. As things are, Burton’s 18th feature arrives to little fanfare presumably because his cartoonish, retro-gothic style no longer feels particularly fresh. Familiarity does not always breed contempt, but in this case it gives rise to something far worse: apathy.

In many ways, Burton has always felt out of step with the present. Hardly surprising, given that his heroes are Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Harryhausen and Vincent Price; his distinctive personal brand indebted to the work of early screen pioneers like Fritz Lang, Georges Méliès and Walt Disney. By consistently channelling these influences Burton – perhaps consciously – invariably imbues his films with an anachronistic quality. His latest, adapted by Jane Goldman from the 2011 Ransom Riggs’ novel of the same name, is no exception. It is for the most part a wonderfully inventive, supremely weird YA fairy tale but also unavoidably the product of a talented filmmaker stuck in a holding pattern.

After an extended prologue in present-day suburban Florida, our intrepid teenage protagonist Jake (Asa Butterfield) is transported to a remote Welsh island circa World War Two where he meets some rather unusual orphans. Ella Purnell’s Emma is the one who first catches Jake’s eye, and she and Miss Peregrine (a curiously underused Eva Green) lead him on a tour of the eponymous boarding house (think Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, only more twee and traditional) while introducing the other children and their unique peculiarities. Their crossbow-wielding, pipe-smoking headmistress encourages Jake’s sense of adventure and imagination with talk of “hollowgasts” and “ymbrynes” before Samuel L Jackson turns up and spoils the party.

Despite the unwelcome presence of retrofitted 3D and some pretty flat CGI, which completely ruins a key stop-motion model animation-inspired set piece, there’s a touch of old-school movie magic about the way Burton constructs the film’s more fantastical elements. But Burton’s best since Big Fish can’t shake itself free from the conventional trappings typically imposed upon a studio movie of this scale – an action-packed third act sees the director operating way outside of his comfort zone. It’s clear that Burton is fully invested in the burgeoning young romance at the heart of this Peter Pan-esque story, but the long it goes on (and the film is very long, by the way) the less intimate and more overstuffed it becomes.

Published 29 Sep 2016

Tags: Edgar Allen Poe Georges Méliès Ray Harryhausen Tim Burton Vincent Price Walt Disney

Anticipation.

His last few were so-so, but you never know with Tim Burton…

Enjoyment.

At times enchanting, infuriating at others.

In Retrospect.

As with so many of Burton’s worlds, you’ll be glad you visited but reluctant to return.

Read More

Frankenweenie

By Adam Woodward

Tim Burton goes old-school with a monochromatic animated gem that’s sadly not of its time.

review

Is Edward Scissorhands Tim Burton’s last truly great movie?

By David Jenkins

The master of the macabre hit his creative peak with this singular suburban fairy tale from 1990.

Dark Shadows

By David Jenkins

Despite obvious flaws, there’s a decent amount to admire in Tim Burton’s bizarre retro horror comedy.

review

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, LWLies has been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design