A totally vintage Tim Burton film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the kind of movie the director could make in his sleep. Burton was attached to the project fairly early, so his influence is clear throughout. And although it’s not at all the same story, it gives an idea of what Burton might have done with A Series of Unfortunate Events, had he been able to continue with that project.
Jake, a young boy played by Asa Butterfield (Hugo from Hugo), is a misfit who uncovers a mystery that stretches time. His grandfather has told him fantastic stories about living at a strange boarding school, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, during World War II—of course, everyone thinks he’s completely crazy except Jake. He convinces his father, Frank (Chris O’Dowd), to take him on holiday to the part of Wales where the school was supposedly located after his grandfather ides under mysterious circumstances. Jake wanders around and eventually finds out that it’s real. The catch is that Miss Peregrine and her students live in a time loop, they all died in a bombing during the war—leading to a sort of Groundhog Day situation and will die if they leave that 24 hour period.
The school is home to children with different abilities, such as hyperkinesis or invisibility—a sort of X-Men meets Harry Potter situation. There they face the Wights, led by Samuel Jackson, who are hunting the Peculiars to eat their eyeballs and thereby regain human form. They morph into creatures that look a bit like the internet sensation Slender Man.
For Burton fans, it’s another trip through his strange universe. Eva Green pays headmistress Miss Peregrine, and fits into that universe like a glove, with the right look and performance style. Jackson obviously has a blast playing this bizarre villain, a real change of pace for him. Butterfield is a superb young actor, and is sure to have a long career in front of him, as anyone who saw his performance in Hugo already knows.
Like all of Burton’s films, there’s something for both adults and children. It’s beautifully designed and shot, especially the creepy Wights (who might be too frightening for some small children), and while it’s not a huge departure from his past work, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Of his big-budget movies, it’s the best Burton has done in recent years. However compared to his last two features Big Eyes and Frankenweenie it’s a slight disappointment.
The Blu-Ray release includes a little over 100 minutes of featurettes, galleries including one Burton’s sketches, trailers and a music video. It also includes a digital copy for those who feel the need to have it on iPad or shudder an iPhone.