Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Movie Review: Miss Peregrin's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

Miss Peregrin's Home for Peculiar Children (2016) directed by Tim Burton from the novel by Ransom Riggs

A school for gifted children (who have superhuman/magical powers, not just good grades in English and Math) is threatened by a madman and his forces of evil. Fortunately the school has a Brit in charge whose own magical power can keep them safe. This set-up for the X-Men is switched over to a more purely fantasy story in Miss Peregrin's Home for Peculiar Children. Miss Peregrin is the Brit in charge--she can change into a bird and can manipulate time. The time-manipulation comes in handy as she has the school relive the same day over and over again. The children don't age and they don't get killed by the German bombs that destroyed the school in 1943. She winds back the clock just before the bomb hits. The locals don't bother the school and aren't concerned over them suddenly vanishing.

The movie starts in modern day with totally mundane teenager Jake living a boring life in Florida. His only claim to weirdness is his grandfather who has filled his head with stories of magic and wonder. The grandfather lived at Miss Peregrin's School, so he's not just making up stories. He has a peculiarity that his grandson has inherited, which sends Jake on an adventure through time and against other peculiars who want to harm the children at the school.

With a set-up like this and Tim Burton directing, it looks like the film should be a fantasy sensation. The visual effects are amazing to look at but some of the character designs are reruns from other films (the baddies look like the Pale Man from Pan's Labyrinth and there's a bunch of skeleton warriors like in Jason and the Argonauts and some battling toys like the creepy neighbor made in the first Toy Story etc.). The other glaring problem in the film is the performances. An over-the-top fantasy story needs some over-the-top characters or acting. Only Samuel L. Jackson (as the villain) gives anything close to a story-worthy performance; everyone else in the cast acts like they are in a period drama, as if their peculiarity wasn't so peculiar after all. The time travel element gets overused, resulting in some narrative cheating by the story tellers.

This a very average fantasy film on its own and a bit disappointing as a Tim Burton film.

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