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‘Miss Peregrine’s’ Highlights Fantastic Visuals and Little Else

‘Miss Peregrine’s’ Highlights Fantastic Visuals and Little Else

Check out our review of "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children."

By David Lynch

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children   At this point, it’s hard not to wonder if name recognition is the only thing that keeps Tim Burton projects going.

The director has been so hit-and-miss in recent years, dotted with successes like “Frankenweenie” and “Big Eyes,” and failures like “Dark Shadows” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass.”

His latest, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” provides an excellent case study as to what Burton values in the filmmaking process.

As always, the scales tip to the visuals – born out of his macabre state of mind – more than anything else. There’s plenty of that unique flair in “Peregrine’s,” the style Burton has built a career on that likens itself to the hideous-but-misunderstood nature of the most outlandish personalities.

The trouble with “Peregrine’s”? It doesn’t have much personality. It’s hollow under the surface, without the substance or charm that keeps an audience invested. Unfortunately, that seems to be Burton’s calling card these days.

The film tells the story of Jake, a seemingly normal boy who encounters a group of abnormal individuals whom the film essentially explains are X-Men-esque mutants without saying the word outright.

These children, cared for by Miss Peregrine, are forced to relive the same September 1943 day over and over to avoid being caught by the hollows – tall, terrifying humanoid creatures whose inspiration by a particular recent horror phenomenon could not be more obvious.

There are lots of characters to have to invest in, but it doesn’t help when the majority of them are stiff as cardboard. Asa Butterfield, in particular, seems to have the same, wide-eyed look the entire movie, as Jake always appears anxious in a role he just doesn’t seem comfortable in.

Eva Green is good enough as Miss Peregrine. In fact, she seems born for the role, and at times she’s a delight to witness on screen. But these moments are few and far between, as a dull script full of cliché one-liners and unintentionally cringeworthy moments seems to be doing its best to work against her and the rest of the cast.

The story itself, while a visual feast for the eyes, commits several cardinal sins of film, not the least acceptable of which is relentlessly burdening the audience with overblown exposition through the film’s two-hour runtime, which makes it feel closer to three hours.

Instead of showing why we should become invested in its story, the film attempts to tell, and the communication is muddled. The film bogs down its potential for a memorable experience with flashback after flashback that prevents it from ever gaining any real momentum with its storytelling.

By a certain point, it feels like we’re doing Burton a favor by ignoring inconsistencies and moments that seem downright unbelievable. Even though it has a fantastical, otherworldly premise, that isn’t an excuse for him not to do his due diligence of providing logic, which seems to be so absent in this world.

It adds up to a very one-dimensional experience. Though I will admit it made me contemplate, afterward, one central question: who the heck is this film’s intended audience anyway?

At times it seems as though it’s geared toward the preteen crowd the same age as most of the titular peculiar children, but at other times it’s clear that age of moviegoer would lose sleep over some of the more terrifying on-screen elements. It’s like Burton meant for it all to be done with a touch of irony, almost self-mockery.

Instead, it comes off as a self-written eulogy for a visionary who continues to show a disconnect with audiences.

Burton can continue to put his trademark look on books, plays and legends, but without balancing his morbid style with any humanity, the audience ends up leaving unfulfilled, and unsympathetic to the plight of anyone on screen.


David Lynch is a freelance movie reviewer.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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