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Movie Review: ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ Tim Burton’s Wonderfully Freaky Visuals

missBy Bob Garver

Hey kids, do you love “X-Men” but were massively let down by “X-Men: Apocalypse”? Are you sick of knockoffs of “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight” and yearn for the good old days of “Harry Potter” knockoffs? Do you hate wasting eight hours of your day on pesky sleep and want to see imagery that will keep you up for weeks? “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” might be the movie for you. Then again, if you like movies that are original and coherent, this might not be the movie for you.

American teenager Jake (Asa Butterfield) witnesses his globehopping grandfather (Terrence Stamp) suffer a bizarre death that can’t be explained by standard forensics. He thinks that answers may lie at the Welsh children’s home where his grandfather grew up. His psychologist (Allison Janney) encourages him to go there for closure if nothing else, and his clueless father (Chris O’Dowd) reluctantly takes him. When he gets there, he’s stupefied to discover that the home was bombed in 1943. But then he meets some of the children that lived with his grandfather. Not adult versions of these children, but the actual children.

The children show him that the home is in fact still standing, provided he travels back in time to 1943. There he meets prim and proper headmistress Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) who explains that the home is protected by a “time loop” where everyone inside lives the same day over and over for their own protection. They need to be protected because the children are “peculiars” who have special abilities that the world wouldn’t understand and would put them in danger, the usual relationship superhumans have with regular humans in these movies. The powers are typical of this genre: one can turn invisible, one can shoot fire, one is an Airbender, etc. The only one I found interesting was a kid with a collection of hearts that he can insert into inanimate objects and make them come to life. Ironically, he mostly uses this incredible life-giving ability to make things kill each other, the sick little freak.

The heart kid isn’t even the bad guy. That honor belongs to Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), an evil scientist who discovers how to become immortal without having to live in a time loop. He just has to kill peculiar children and eat their eyeballs. We see lots of eyeball-eating and empty eye sockets. Mr. Barron kidnaps Miss Peregrine and Jake has to lead the Peculiar Children in an adventure to get her back. Turns out Mr. Barron isn’t that difficult of a villain because he’s always wasting time boasting about how certain he is of victory. I’ve come to expect a degree of this trope in movies, but this guy does it like 90% of the time.

The bad news is that “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is a dull, confusing movie in most respects. The business with the time loops gets really nonsensical after a while and the movie doesn’t do anything with its action or characters that you wouldn’t completely expect from this genre. The good news is that I actually dug the freaky, disturbing visuals. This is a movie with characters that can scare people to death with their faces, and unlike alleged horror movie “Blair Witch,” it actually has enough confidence to give us those faces. This movie was directed by Tim Burton, and he’s a master of being scary and depraved in that fun way. But not every scene can rely on being horrifying, and the movie lags in scenes where it can’t revel in style over substance.

One and a Half Stars out of Five.

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and peril. Its running time is 127 minutes.

Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu.