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Movie Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, or This May Be Tim Burton's First Superhero Movie

Twin children everywhere will probably dress up like the creepy twins this Halloween.

The title pretty much gives you the premise of the entire movie. It pretty much sounds like an institution, sort of like an orphanage, the wards of which are children with peculiarities, under the guardianship of a lady named Miss Peregrine. And although this very much sounds like the uncanny X-Men (replace "institution" with "school for the gifted", "peculiar children" with "mutants", and "Miss Peregrine" with "Professor Charles Xavier"), this is not a superhero movie.

First off, it's not based on a comic book by Marvel, but from a novel by author Ransom Riggs. Second, it's not science fiction, and neither is it fantasy, despite the fantastical elements of the story. The proper literary term for this is magical realism, a genre that Netflix has tried to force on their Pablo Escobar series Narcos.

Tim Burton is one of the few directors that can tackle magical realism quite effortlessly. It's like his default genre, the way the suspense thriller is Alfred Hitchcock's or the biopic is Ron Howard's. Visually, this film definitely has Burton's trademark look, accentuated by the excellent costume designs by his frequent collaborator Colleen Atwood. The bleak Welsh atmosphere captured perfectly by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, who also did Inside Llewyn Davis, a film which also utilised the bleach-bypass look, which is a technique with film negatives, though I'm not sure if Delbonnel shot on video.

Would've been nice if one of them had the power to blow endless streams of marijuana smoke.

The strength of this film is not in its story. Although I haven't read the source material, I think the screen adaptation hasn't fully captured what the book has to offer. It's like somehow, you can feel that there's more to this story which the two-hour running time failed to translate. That said, the screenplay isn't bad. But it isn't great either. The actual strength of this Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children lies in the performances. Of course, I'm not talking about Asa Butterfield, who's already hit the awkward stage of his adolescence. With his gangly frame and commendable American accent, he just can't outshine the adults; none of the children can, actually, even with Ella Purnell's promising talent.

Samuel L. Jackson as the Barron might seem like his standard villain performance, but the fact that he never utters any curse word or profanity is a big achievement in itself. I was always half-expecting him to say something like "motherfucker", until I remembered that this was supposed to be a young adult film adapted from a young adult novel. Chris O'Dowd is brilliant as Jake's dad, playing the comic relief with just the right subtlety, and impressing Hollywood with his near-perfect American accent. And of course, Miss Eva Green as Miss Peregrine is splendid as always, and although she plays the title role, she is not the main protagonist in this film. Despite her screen time being comparatively limited, she manages to outshine everyone else here. The only one who could've upstaged her would be Dame Judi Dench as Miss Avocet, so it's probably a good thing that Dame Judi had way less screen time, and spent a significant part of that as a bird.

"Dame Judi ain't upstaging me."

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. USA/UK/Belgium. 2016.

Original rating: 7/10
Terence Stamp's short screen time: -0.1
Ella Purnell's pretty face: +0.1
Time travel element: +0.1
Enoch's power of necro-puppetry: +0.1
Emma's power to control air: +0.1
Jake's power to see the monsters: -0.1
Hugh's power of bees in his mouth: -0.1
Bronwyn's super strength: +0.1
Claire and the mouth behind her head: -0.1
Fiona's power to make things grow fast: +0.1
Horace's power to project his dreams from his eye: +0.1
Olive's pyrokinesis: +0.1
Millard's power of invisibility: +0.1
Twin gorgons: +0.1
Final rating: 7.6/10


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