There was a time where a new film from director Tim Burton was met with fanfare and anticipation, but diminishing returns from the director over the years has resulted in that anticipation dropping off. It’s a pity, because many will have missed out on the unexpected charm of his most recent film, an adaptation of the acclaimed children’s novel ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’. At a glance, it seems like the typical Burton fare, but it shows a lightness of touch and a dark undertone we haven’t seen from him for quite some time.
After his grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp, 'Big Eyes') dies in mysterious circumstances, Jake (Asa Butterfield, 'Ender's Game', 'Hugo') sets off to Wales to find the children’s home he grew up in and uncover more about his grandfather’s past. What he finds though is that the home is for "peculiar children", with different odd abilities and protected by the eccentric Miss Peregrine (Eva Green, 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For', 'Dark Shadows'). Very soon, Jake finds himself embroiled in an effort to protect the children from an impending dark force intent on devouring them... literally.
This material seems tailor-made for Burton, once again finding him exploring characters that exist on the fringe of society because of their oddness, but there’s a bittersweet melancholy to the film that has been missing from his work for some time. Even though it’s aimed at children, there’s a dark streak to ‘Miss Peregrine’s’, and I don’t mean that watered-down rubbish that passes for "dark" these days. This film is at times twisted, grotesque and haunting, the forces intent on hunting the peculiars fashioned vividly from childhood nightmares. The design of the film is as terrific as you’d expect from Burton, but doesn’t end up crippled by his propensity for excess. There are some genuinely wonderful, playful sequences in this film, many that show its director having a lot of fun and making cheeky nods to films from the past. It moves at a careful, considered pace, helped by a really strong screenplay from Jane Goldman, who injects it with her own kind of idiosyncrasies that match Burton’s really well, and with a score written by Michael Higham and Matthew Margeson as opposed to Danny Elfman, it has a very different tone than what we’d expect from one of Burton’s films, all to its advantage.
The cast are a delight, especially the peculiars themselves. There’s an easy chemistry between all of them, helped by a sturdy performance from Butterfield. The adults in the film are also having a great time. Eva Green is top value no matter what she’s in, but she’s joined by Chris O’Dowd, Samuel L. Jackson, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett and Judi Dench. It’s clear that everyone is enjoying the experience, and encourages you to do the same.
‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ is not a return to form for director Tim Burton, but it’s still a lovely film that blows away the cobwebs after a series of tired, lacklustre films.
‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ is not a return to form for director Tim Burton, but it’s still a lovely film that blows away the cobwebs after a series of tired, lacklustre films. It also doesn’t treat its child audience like they’re made of porcelain and need to be protected. It embraces its scarier elements and bolsters them with great energy and enthusiasm. This is a charming, gentle and visually delightful film that ends up being far more engaging and affecting than you expect.
PICTURE & SOUND
The 1080p 1.85:1 transfer looks terrific, offering a clean and crisp image that pops with detail and the very particular use of colour. It’s one of those films that’s a real joy to look at, and this high definition transfer captures that beautifully. It’s complimented by a terrific DTS-HD MA 7.1 track that captures the playful nature of the sound design while keeping all the sound elements in balance. There’s a lot of quieter moments in this film, but in the major sequences the sound really kicks in and ends up being as delightful as the visuals.
There are a few choice features included on this disc. ‘The Peculiar Story’ (12:51) gives a surprisingly thorough overview of the novel itself and the adaptation process, while the making of the film is gone into more detail with ‘The Peculiars’ (1:04:54), which looks at each of the major characters in isolation and the challenges they presented to the filmmakers. ‘Hollows and Ex-Hollows’ (9:24) takes a closer look at the film’s nightmarish villains, while ‘Map of Days’ (17:40) focuses on the time loop concept at the heart of the film (and one of its most impressive sequences). The disc is rounded off with a music video of ‘Wish That You Were Here’ from Florence + The Machine (2:18), some theatrical trailers and two galleries with concept art from Burton and the source photographs used in creating both the novel and the film.