The Watchers

The Watchers

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Review: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children (UK Cert 12A)

Jake (Asa Butterfield) is a young man whose life is stagnant. However, when his grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp) dies in mysterious circumstances, it opens up a whole new world. It turns out that Abe's bedtime stories of children with strange gifts- peculiarities- living in an orphanage on a small Welsh island overseen by the enigmatic Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) weren't just fanciful tales. But every good tale needs a monster and soon Jake is confronted by the terrifying Hollowgasts as he seeks to help his new friends.

Directed by Tim Burton with his usual flair, the screenplay is by Jane Goldman, based on the 2011 young adult book by Ransom Riggs. One thing the film has made me want to do is actually read the book; I picked it up idly in a bookshop at the start of the year (before I knew the film was being made) but put it back down.

There's a strong central performance by Asa Butterfield (Ender's Game, Hugo) as Jake. Devoted to his grandfather and distraught at his death, Butterfield sells the alienated young teen without being stereotypically mopey or emo. Green's performance as Miss Peregrine is similarly strong- quirky without being annoying, stern without being over-the-top- but I couldn't get away from the nagging feeling that, but for personal issues, it was a role meant for Helena Bonham Carter. Awkward.

The young Peculiar children were all cast well, with Ella Purnell impressing as nascent love interest Emma (who is lighter than air and needs leaden boots to stay grounded) and Hayden Keeler-Stone as dream-projector Horace my personal favourites. There's also a lot of humour gained from the invisible boy Millard (voiced by Cameron King) who is frequently naked. There's also a nice supporting turn by Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson seems to be having the time of his life chewing the scenery as the villainous Mr Barron. 

On the topic of villains, the Hollowgasts are well realised and quite unpleasant creatures (especially the whole eye-eating thing) which might cause some concern for younger viewers. Visually, it's a stunning film- the desolation of the Cairnholm island looking great, compared with the bucolic idyll of the Orphanage in 1943. There's even a trip to a sunken ship and the final battle takes place on Blackpool Pier. The score- by Mike Higham and Matthew Margeson- is also particularly good (especially the ethereal theme as Emma and Jake visit the sunken ship).  

Fans of Burton will love it- this is the kind of film he excels at, full of light whimsy and dark fantasy. It's assured, fun and suspenseful. I really enjoyed it.

Rating: 4 out of 5


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