Combustible Celluloid
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With: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O'Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson, Kim Dickens, O-Lan Jones, Finlay MacMillan, Lauren McCrostie, Georgia Pemberton, Milo Parker, Pixie Davies, Hayden Keeler-Stone, Cameron King, Raffiella Chapman
Written by: Jane Goldman, based on a novel by Ransom Riggs
Directed by: Tim Burton
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and peril
Running Time: 127
Date: 09/30/2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Ain't That 'Peculiar'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children deals with a group of talented, outcast children with "peculiarities," hiding in repeating time loops.

In a way, this story is perfect for director Tim Burton, who for thirty years, has continually found ways to re-set his favorite misfit themes and images with new stories and faces.

Consider Asa Butterfield (Hugo), who plays the young hero Jake. His tall, lanky frame and enormous eyes recall Jack Skellington.

Then there's Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell), a girl whose peculiarity involves her being lighter than air.

Though the actress is brunette, Burton dressed her as a blonde (and also emphasized her eyes), in the tradition of many similar bottle blondes in his films, from Kim in Edward Scissorhands to Katrina Van Tassel in Sleepy Hollow and Alice in Alice in Wonderland.

Indeed, a great many of the images in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children are firmly of Burton's wondrous cinematic universe; there's even an army of attacking skeletons in tribute to his hero Ray Harryhausen.

However, despite Burton's unerring camera setups and amazing images, the movie still has a story to tell, and this it does not do entirely satisfactorily.

Based on a novel by Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children could have simply been about these children — which include a girl with teeth in the back of her neck and a boy that can project his dreams through a lens — and their strange and resourceful keeper, Miss Peregrine (Eva Green).

Burton lingers over their strangeness with love. When Jake finds the children in a majestic old house in Wales after following clues from his beloved, late grandfather (Terence Stamp), it's enchanting simply meeting them.

But, instead, the movie has include a bad guy, Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), who wishes to achieve immortality by eating the children's eyes.

Jackson is funny in his role, but this threat leads to confusing rules about the time loops, and all-too-ordinary fights, taunts, showdowns, and races against time, packed into an increasingly busy screenplay.

Burton is far better at gloomy moods, striking pictures, and dark humor than he is at action and excitement, as evidenced by this movie's draggy 127-minute running time.

The book Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was originally based around a series of found photographs, whose stillness and mystery might have been a good guide for a great Tim Burton film.

This one has plenty of enchanting, haunting moments — enough to make the movie worth seeing — but it just has trouble making them move.

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