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Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children review: wonderfully weird

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:45 IST

Tim Burton has a special knack for bringing the eccentric to life. Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is trademark Burton and possibly the best live action (non musical) movie from Burton in a while, with elements from Frankenweenie, Edward Scissorhands and the wonderful Beetlejuice all churned together.

The source material isn't a step behind either - based a series by Ransom Riggs, it's a gothic playground for children with extraordinary, nay, peculiar, abilities. It's a dark and peculiar tale in every way imaginable - an X-Men meets Harry Potter.

But to makes expectations manageable, all those platitudes don't mean that the plot isn't extremely predictable - it is. But you're so distracted by the visuals, the occasional wise cracks and Groundhog Day antics that you won't care all that much at all.

Asa Butterfield (Hugo, Enders Game) plays Jake Portman, a young boy who was brought up on a diet of tales his grandfather Abe told him of superhuman children at a faraway home. He believes every bit until the day comes that he's old enough to question it all - he assumes that the stories had more to do with the terrible acts of war that his grandfather had witnessed in Europe while fleeing from Poland.

That is until he reaches his grandfather's home one day to find that he's been bizarrely attacked. While Abe lies dying, he asks Jake to hunt for the truth for his own safety. His last wish is to ask Jake to return to the home for children in Wales where Abe was raised.

This nutty idea luckily gets fast forwarded and after a month of therapy with Alison Janney sees little improvement, he and his father reach the island.

We only get to see the titular home for the first time sometime during the halfway mark, but that's when the true Tim Burton adventure begins.

Eve Green plays Miss Peregrine, the headmistress of the home. The key to the whole story lies in her ability to manipulate time and create time loops - each day, for her, the students and the school, it's still 3 September 1943 every single day - before a Nazi bomb destroys the school. She's an Ymbryne (someone who can manipulate time and turn into a bird).

It's also when the movie's biggest asset kicks in - its cast of "peculiars". And even though they get a little short changed when it comes to character development, you can't get enough of them.

Jakes' love interest Emma (an annoying Ella Purnell) is lighter than air and floats aways when she takes her lead does off. Olive (Lauren McCrostie) has hands that wield fire. Her boyfriend, Enoch (Finlay MacMillan) can temporarily bring the dead back to life and reanimate other dolls and creatures. Hugh (Milo Parker) has a stomach full of bees. Millard (Cameron King) is the invisible one, always complaining about being naked. Claire (Raffiella Chapman) has an extra mouth in the back of her neck that she uses to eat. Bronwyn (Pixie Davis) has incredible strength.

They're peculiar to say the least. Their costumes are fantastic, in the scene they're introduced, it seemed as though they had walked of the sets of a Ryan Murphy American Horror Story production - one little girl in a tutu, twins with ghastly masks and pretty waifish girl.

It's the visual aspect of the film that could be nightmarish to behold for some, but for those who are fans of the horror genre, there's so much to savour. Even the monsters look like crosses between Slenderman and a giant squid.

Asa Butterfield is quite good as Jake, but at no point does he follow the traditional Burton aesthetic. Samuel L Jackson channels some inner Christopher Walken and at one point even devours a bowlful of children's eyeballs. In fact, his role as Barron was written in by Burton because he wanted to work with the actor. Which is why, even in 2016, the one main bad guy in the movie is a man of colour. But then again, it's Jackson so that argument is of no real import here.

Eva Green is her fabulous self as always, but the movies' biggest crime was not having enough of her on screen.

My only hope is that the rest of the book series don't get made into movies. Not every movie needs to grow into a franchise.

The verdict

It's morbid, charming and funny. What more could you ask for in a weekend?

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

First published: 7 October 2016, 6:37 IST
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.