Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children **

Tim Burton’s latest has his usual visual splash, but the story lacks oomph.

Is it worth $10? No

It’s debatable whether Tim Burton is a “great” filmmaker, but he’s certainly a distinct auteur whose films (“Beetlejuice,” “Edward Scissorhands”) have endured. Because of this we always hope his next movie will be similarly memorable, and serve as a reminder of the magic that he, a champion of outcasts if ever there was one, is capable of providing. Unfortunately, “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” is not memorable in the slightest.

For a story about a teenager who time travels to 1943 to live with people who have extraordinary abilities, “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” is awfully dull. We know Burton films regularly include lavish production values, gaudy costumes and fantastical visual effects. It’s always the story that matters most, however, and this time Burton does a sluggish job of telling it.

Based on the book of the same name by Ransom Riggs, we meet teenage Jake (Asa Butterfield) in modern-day Florida, and soon learn about his bond with grandpa Abe (Terence Stamp). As a boy Jake loved hearing wild stories about Abe’s time with children with strange abilities, and seeing pictures of an invisible boy (wearing clothing), a young woman who’ll fly away if not for her lead shoes, a super strong little girl, etc.

Years go by, Abe dies, and Jake finds a postcard sent to Abe by Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), who runs the home where the children allegedly live. Intrigued, Jake and his father (Chris O’Dowd) set out to find Miss Peregrine on a remote island off the coast of Wales. To Jake’s surprise he finds the home and learns its peculiar inhabitants relive September 3, 1943, every day and never age. We as an audience, however, feel like we age months waiting for something interesting to happen. Finally, a half hour later, the conflict triggers into motion: Jake realizes a madman named Barron (Samuel L. Jackson) wants to harness the power of peculiars, especially their eyeballs, so he can live forever.

The lulls in the script by Jane Goldman are possibly the result of trying to stay loyal to the book, but Jackson’s villain is not in the book, which suggests deviating from the source material wasn’t a big deal to the filmmakers. So why not trim the excess and give us only the essential parts the way movies are supposed to? Because Burton is enamored with each child’s abilities, and is determined to set up the relationship dynamics amongst the never-aging youngsters. This is good in theory, but needs to be rendered in a more compelling way.

Visually there are no complaints, as the film looks period specific and has expected flair. It’s not worth the 3D upcharge though, so if you’re curious enough to see it at least spare yourself a few dollars there. And if you do go, “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” is not necessarily something you’ll regret seeing, but you’re also likely to leave wishing you did something else with your two hours.

Did you know?
Much is made of Burton’s connection to Johnny Depp, but “Peregrine” also marks the 11th time Burton has worked with Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood (“Alice in Wonderland”). 

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