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New Release Review - MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

An American teen embarks on a time travelling adventure when he follows the mysterious clues left behind by his murdered Grandfather.






Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Tim Burton

Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L Jackson, Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, Alison Janney, Chris O'Dowd, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell



Tim Burton poured his heart and soul into his 20th century work. In the 21st century he's morphed into one of the most soulless filmmakers working in mainstream cinema, and each successive movie adds fuel to the notion that his early successes thrived in spite of Burton's involvement, not because of it.



Pan. Tomorrowland. Alice Through the Looking Glass. Won't somebody think of the children?

As bad as Hollywood's recent efforts to appeal to adult audiences have been, it's the kids who are really suffering from Tinseltown's current drought of imagination, lack of skilled storytellers and obsession with "universe building". Since the end of the lucrative Harry Potter series, we've had a ton of ripoffs foisted upon us, but none have come close to replicating the commercial and critical success of JK Rowling's franchise.


Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children ticks all the usual boxes. Socially awkward teen who becomes a hero? Check. Fetishistic Anglophilia coupled with British thesps cashing quick cheques? Check. A plot so overly complicated a Tolstoy scholar would give up halfway through? Check. Villains whose impact and motivation are practically non-existent? Check. The added menace of 3D, as if trying to follow the half-baked plot wasn't headache inducing enough? Check.

I couldn't begin to summarise the plot of this bloated mess, adapted from a Young Adult novel by the wonderfully monikered Ransom Riggs. Suffice to say we have an American teen (played of course by a British teen, Asa Butterfield) who finds himself on a small Welsh island production designed by someone whose only experience of Britain comes from Miss Marple novels. On the island is the titular institution, overseen by Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), who gets her name because she turns into a peregrine. Eva Green is the film's only real selling point; her short turn as the impossibly sexy, pipe-smoking headmistress instantly jolts the slumbering movie into life, but blink and you'll miss her, as her character spends more time in bird form than human. Sidenote: if the current trend of gender reversing recognisable properties persists, can someone please cast Green as Sherlock Holmes?


As is customary with recent mainstream kids' movies, the first two acts of Miss Peregrine consist of characters explaining the film's superficial yet labyrinthine plot to the audience, while the third act is given over to an overblown action set-piece featuring protagonists we don't give two hoots about battling villains we don't remotely fear. This one takes place in Blackpool, so at least that's something we haven't seen before.

Jane Goldman's messy and mind-numbing script is equalled by some of the worst filmmaking of Tim Burton's directorial career. He's just as determined to make things unnecessarily difficult for the audience to follow as his screenwriter is. His handling of invisible creatures is particularly confusing - sometimes we can see them, sometimes we can't, all in seemingly arbitrary fashion. There are simple visual gags that lose their impact because Burton either gives us one shot too many or one too few; it's a masterclass in how not to construct cinematic comedy. Visit L.A.'s Forest Lawn Memorial Park on a quiet evening and you'll hear Buster Keaton turning in his grave.


Whether you're a fan of his (increasingly less) distinctive style or not, you have to admit Burton poured his heart and soul into his 20th century work. In the 21st century he's morphed into one of the most soulless filmmakers working in mainstream cinema, and each successive movie adds fuel to the notion that his successes thrived in spite of Burton's involvement, not because of it.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is in cinemas September 30th.






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