By Cynthia Biddlecomb
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is appropriate entertainment for older teens and adults, young and old, during this pre-Halloween season. Tim Burton directed this adventure-fantasy, based on a popular young adult novel by Ransom Riggs. Though the film is not especially scary, there are creatures in the film that do come close. But some of these may just tickle your funny bone.
The story may surprise you, traveling in time as it does between two eras in history (1943 and 2016), two points on a well-studied map (suburban Florida and an island off the coast of Wales) and at least two realities (normal and peculiar). Burton’s special effects enliven a few monsters, an underwater sanctuary, and the special powers of the children and their caregiver—Miss Peregrine—all of which creates the fantasy part of the adventure.
But first we meet Jake (Asa Butterfield, Hugo), an older teen living in Florida, awkward but likeable, whose grandfather has dementia, or so his parents believe. Of course, grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp) knows a different reality, one in which he lived before joining the armed forces in 1943. He has, in fact, kept in touch with that reality over the years. As tragedy strikes, Jake tries to sort out what happened; at the behest of his parents, he goes into therapy with Dr. Golan (Allison Janney) to resolve his issues. At her recommendation, Jake and his father Franklin (Chris O’Dowd) take a trip to that island Abe used to talk about.
Through some sort of time portal, Jake meets the peculiar children about whom his grandfather had told him bedtime stories. They all welcome him as a visitor and he learns of their special skills.
One of them, Emma (Ella Purnell) shows Jake around. It is, however, Miss Peregrine herself (Eva Green, 300: Rise of an Empire) who holds the answers he seeks. In the process, Jake learns of the peril the household faces from the evil Barron (Samuel L. Jackson). Jake helps them and discovers his own peculiarity. It’s an intriguing story, a fun romp, with a gothic feel to it, there are some humorous lines, and Judy Dench has a small part in it. What’s not to enjoy?
The film is rated “PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and peril.” Younger children would find that the action lags as the story builds. But the rest of us may find the scenery, some sequences—especially in Enoch’s lab and in Emma’s underwater retreat—to be, visually, quite memorable.