Monday, July 24, 2017

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: A Whimsical World Beset by Strangeness

Movie Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
Version: HBO free preview

Think of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children as a peculiar alternative world to Harry Potter or X-Men. No one is a wizard but everyone has special powers. Even many of the adults. And main character Jabob is one of them, plucked from the world of unpeculiar people by unfortunate events surrounding a visit to his grandfather's former Cornwall village to discover the secrets unfolded to him over the years in tales told to him by his grandfather when Jacob visits the past through a portal. There he meets the characters of those tales he has seen in old photographs and the very proper Miss Peregrine, whose mission has always been to protect them. It turns out these peculiar children have very powerful enemies, and it's up to Jacob to protect them.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is directed by Tim Burton, so as expected you find a selection of strange, almost grotesque personifications of these peculiar children. One otherwise delightful young girl hides a sharp-toothed maw under long red curls at the nape of her neck. Twins wear gunnysacks over their entire bodies with strange eyes, noses, and mouths stitched where faces should appear, and when facing foes lifting the sacks turns the foes into cement. Monsters on the enemy side have no faces, just round alien heads with mouths full of sharp teeth and tall snake-like bodies. The main bad guy, Barron (played by Samuel L. Jackson) has whites for eyes and jagged teeth like a dinosaur. To keep their evil powers, the bad guys pluck out eye balls and eat them -- pretty grim!

The saving grace for the story are the really more innocent personalities of the peculiar children, who are really more childlike than their powers or some of their personifications might suggest. They are, after all, children. And they are protected by the brilliant, almost Holmsian Miss Peregrine. Every evening at exactly the same time she resets time to the same moment before the Home for Peculiar Children is bombed by German Nazi planes, preserving not only their lives but also their youth and their innocence.

Miss Peregrine is portrayed with exceptional exactness by Eva Green, smokes a pipe and breezes through a line of deductive reasoning that rivals Sherlock Holmes. Asa Butterfield plays Jacob, the youth wonder; Butterfield often plays these parts of the awkward youth who steps in to save the day. Terence Stamp is Abe, Jacob's grandfather, who is ably patient with young Jacob's many questions and, despite many of his more villainous roles of the past, makes a pretty good grandfather. Ella Purnell plays Emma, Jacob's love interest and his lifeline between his own world and the world of peculiars. Along with the other children, it's a fine ensemble cast that wins the film for the viewer.

I'm not a Tim Burton fan, but Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was one of his better efforts, in which he managed to create a whimsical world beset by strangeness. Well imagined and well done.

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