Film: “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children”; Director: Tim Burton; Cast: Asa Butterfield and Eva Green; Rating: *1/2
You know one of those films that are so bad, they are good? The kind that takes itself so seriously that it forgets how ridiculous it actually is?
Well, Tim Burton’s latest — which comes with a title so long that you might as well not memorise it because the film will be gone by the time you do — is so encumbered by its own sense of gravity that it forgets it is at the end of the day, just a children’s fantasy, albeit a dark fantasy.
Miss Peregrine could have been a great deal of fun. The child actors are adorable even when they are made vicious victims of the over-reaching imagination of the special effects department (one little girl eats with the back of her head).
The elements of tongue-in-cheek drama and shrieking terror are there in the plot. An adolescent boy Jake (Asa Butterfield) gets so carried away by his grandfather’s tall tales that he grows up believing in them and actually sets off in pursuit of an abandoned orphanage where the grandfather’s imagination takes flight.
Most of the proceedings seem a pretext for panoramic images of rocks, seashores and ocean waters lapping against a location that seems chosen only because Burton likes desolate resplendence.
The narrative is defeated by the slightness of the plot and the insubstantiality of the characters, both inadequacies qualified by a bombastic fairytale atmosphere of narration that mocks at the gently persuasive tone used by Steven Spielberg to propagate a fabled flight.
With its harrowing images of precocious peculiarity, captured with radiant cinematic pride by Bruno Delbonnel, Burton’s film seems like a splendid slog. Hugely distinguished actors like Judi Dench and Samuel L Jackson show up, assuming postures of self-conscious grandiosity.
This is a film that brings no ambition to its visual spectacle. The plot is a hefty hogwash with little room for gentle manoeuvre as the narrative swings from one extreme excursive exposition to another. As I sat waiting to be transported to neverland, not one redeeming moment cropped up in the lengthy narrative.
Is this the same director who once blended the bizarre and the beautiful so fluently in “Edward Scissorhands”?
Burton, here, seems content reposing in the land of the bland. This is Edward without the scissors. Even Eva Green’s stately performance and Rupert Everett’s cameo as a snoopy bird-watcher cannot rescue this film from falling into a wretched murky grave.