Film: “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”; Director: Tim Burton; Cast: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson, Kim Dickens, O-Lan Jones, Finlay MacMillan, Lauren McCrostie, Georgia Pemberton, Milo Parker, Pixie Davies, Jack Brody, Hayden Keeler-Stone and Raffiella Chapman; Rating: ***
Director Tim Burton’s film, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, is truly a peculiar film. With quirky characters set in a cinematic universe that is grudgingly believable, this complex adventure fantasy film is delightfully told and evokes mixed reactions.
Layered with metaphors and allegories that give varied meanings to the narration, on the surface, the film is the adventure of a young boy named Jake (Asa Butterfield), who shuttles in time.
The film begins in Florida, US, where Jake, who shares a close bond with his grandfather Abe (Terrence Stamp) is fed with unbelievable stories about a “home for peculiar children”, run by Miss Alma Peregrine, where he had spent time during his younger days.
Jake’s parents disapprove of Abe’s storytelling sessions.
It is only after Abe’s sudden death, that Jake is put into therapy to process his feeling of loss and to get over the fantasy tales he had heard. However, when he receives a birthday present which includes a postcard from Wales that his grandfather had supposedly left for him, before he died, he believes his grandfather’s tales to be real.
Jake is resolute and convinces his father to take him to Wales so that he can find some closure.
Once in Wales, Jake discovers the secret “Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children” and the motive of his being, which is the crux of the narration.
The script, written by Jane Goldman, based on a novel written by debutant novelist Ransom Riggs in 2011, adroitly captures the essence of the tale. The ten peculiar children at Miss Peregrine’s home are enigmatically unique and interesting and with the entire narrative deliberately rushed, justice is not done to their character arcs.
The hurried pace gives the feeling of a manufactured seriousness and excitement. Also, with tinges of horror, adventure and romance the tone of the narrative fluctuates and is thus inconsistent.
On the performance front, every actor is perfunctory, yet convincing. The peculiar kids are charming and they deliver the best they can offer. Each one of them stands out and have their moments of on-screen glory. Notable among them is Ella Purnell, who is bogged down with a confusedly designed character as Emma Bloom, an aerokinetic teenager who can manipulate air. Nevertheless, she shines as Jake’s love interest.
With a fairly wooden face, Asa Butterfield in the lead role as Jake, lacks the charm of a hero.
Eva Green as the shape-changing Miss Peregrine is intriguing, but with limited screen time and with little to do with the actual thrust of the plot, she offers nothing that makes her character memorable.
Judi Drench is wasted in a miniscule role as Esmeralda Avocet, a mistress of another peculiar school.
Terrence Stamp as Abe, Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Barron, the leader of the monsters called Hollows and Chris O’Dowd as Franklin Portman, Jake’s cautious father, are uninteresting and stereotypical.
On the production front, the film is aesthetically mounted and is beautifully captured by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel. His live action frames seamlessly mesh with the effects of the computer-generated images.
Colleen Atwood’s costumes are worth a mention and so are the set pieces in the “Time Loop”, which include the British wartime setting. These sets are spectacularly designed by Production Designer Gavin Bocquet.
The 3D effects do not elevate the viewing experience.
Overall, the film leaves you with a mixed feeling of wanting to like the film and its characters, but yet there is something that holds you back from accepting them wholeheartedly.