Magazine article Variety

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Magazine article Variety

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Article excerpt

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield,

Chris O'Dowd, Allison Janney

The title may read "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" but there can be no doubt for anyone buying a ticket: This is really Tim Burton's Home for Peculiar Children. Not since "Sweeney Todd" and before that all the way back to "Sleepy Hollow" have the studios found such a perfect match of material for Hollywood's most iconic auteur. It's gotten to the point where the mere addition of Burton's name to a movie title can justify an otherwise iffy prospect: You don't want to see a "Planet of the Apes" remake? Well, how about a Tim Burton "Planet of the Apes" remake? Now you're interested! Here, there's nothing forced about the coupling of Ransom Riggs' surprise best-seller with Burton's playfully nonthreatening goth aesthetic and outsider sensibility, which should put the director back on the blockbuster charts.

One of the kid-lit sphere's freshest recent surprises, Riggs' novel was inspired by the author's personal collection of vintage photographs - including a floating girl, an invisible boy, and other such darkroom creations. Known as "peculiars" this eccentric mix of wartime refugees are like a cross between the Addams Family and the X-Men, each one blessed with some outré ability, from spontaneously igniting anything they touch to bringing inanimate objects (i.e. skeletons and dolls) to life.

While collateral damage from a Nazi bombing destroyed their beautiful Victorian orphanage, tucked away on the tiny Welsh island of Cairnholm during World War II, these kids have had few direct enemies for more than six decades. But that's changed now that a shape-shifting goon named Barron (Samuel L. Jackson) is on the hunt for peculiars, gobbling their eyes with great relish (and no one plays great relish, eye-gobbling or otherwise, like Jackson).

The kids have been safe all this time thanks to Miss Peregrine (embodied by Burton's new muse, Eva Green), who possesses the gift of creating protective "loops" or 24-hour safety bubbles wherein her charges can hide in a "Groundhog Day"-like cycle, forever repeating the day before the bomb struck.

As guardians go, Miss Peregrine is what one might call an ymbrine, a rare breed of peculiar capable of transforming into a bird - in her case, a peregrine falcon, though there are others (including Miss Avocet, played by Judi Dench). Her ebony hair streaked with blue and swept up into a bird's-nest 'do, Green cleverly suggests her avian alter ego, standing rigidly upright in her peacock-blue satin gown, glowering down through exaggerated eyeliner, and brandishing her long, slender fingers as if they were talons. Riggs may have imagined her, but she has clearly become a Burton creation.

While hardly as elaborate (or inventive) as Hogwarts, Miss Peregrine's eccentric quasi-orphanage shares the quality of remaining a well-kept secret from polite society. Even the other Cairnholm residents don't realize who their neighbors are, so none can imagine why a boy named Jacob Portman (Asa Butterfield) would travel all the way from Florida to visit what remains of the old house. An aspiring "discoverer," Jacob is reeling from the murder of his paranoid old grandfather, Abe (Terence Stamp), who died trying to defend himself from a longlimbed, eyeball-snatching creature called a hollowgast. …

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