Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016)

A review by Nalini Haynes

Jake (Asa Butterfield) is at school when he’s called to help his grandfather, Abe Portman (Terrence Stamp) who Jake believes has dementia. When he arrives, the house is trashed and a trail leads him into the woods where he finds his grandfather, dying and eye-less.

Abe tells Jake to find the island and children’s orphanage in their shared bedtime stories then dies.

Jake talks his therapist and parents into allowing him to travel to the island where his dipshit of a father, Franklin Portman (Chris O’Dowd), tries to sabotage Jake’s efforts to find the orphanage by making the trip all about Franklin and the bird-watching book he’s writing.

Not to be deterred, Jake finds the orphanage in ruins then the peculiar children find him. Cue misadventures.

As with all Tim Burton’s movies, Miss Peregrine’s is horror for children with a loveable quirky cast and elements of romance. Pity it’s racist, sexist and the plot — probably written by someone who doesn’t understand the limitations of time travel-portal stories — is flawed.

Via the usual rota of scenes, each resident of the orphanage is introduced then revealed to be peculiar, quirky and loveable except for the boy who might, just might, turn out to be a villain. These scenes define the rules of this magical world while using spectacular CGI and full color in contrast with the non-magical version of the island.

Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) is a shape-changing bird whose sole role in life is to care for children and make sure the children never grow up. Miss Peregrine and her kind are all women and are always assigned the role of caring for the children. No men. Ever. Yaaaay. [snark]

The only character of color, Barron, is played by Samuel L Jackson and is — you guessed it — the worst villain of all.

Why are the children so varied in ages and WHY keep two girls and a boy in that stasis with hormones raging and unrequited love in the air? They experience the same day over and over again like in Groundhog Day, never getting older. Remember the lessons learnt in Interview With A Vampire? You’ve got the recipe for a real horror story.

In the beginning the rules of time travel are well defined: you go through a portal and end up in the magical ‘other’ time but do not change location. Later, however, these portals become space-time portals because plot. And Jake ends up years older than his love-interest who hasn’t aged a day since he last saw her. Squick.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is part Mary Poppins (sexist white middleclass mid-twentieth century novels) and part NeverEnding Story, following well-used tropes that would have worked better if they’d been updated to fit a 21st century audience. Make the caretakers any gender, let the children grow up, let the fight be a joint effort instead of being Jake-centric and FFS MAKE SOME OF THE KIDS COLORED. Seriously.

If you can watch the movie uncritically you’re almost certain to enjoy this lavish production but do you want to instil Enid Blyton-type prejudices on today’s kids?

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Ransom Riggs (based upon the novel written by), Jane Goldman (screenplay)
Stars: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L Jackson
Special appearances by: Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Judi Dench and more.

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children