MISS PERE­GRINE’S HOME FOR PE­CU­LIAR CHIL­DREN

Tim Bur­ton goes weird. Be­lieve us, we were as shocked as you.

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS -

direc­tor Tim Bur­ton cast Eva Green, Asa But­ter­field, Samuel L Jackson, Ella Pur­nell, Chris O’dowd, Ter­ence Stamp

plot Con­fused by the mys­te­ri­ous mur­der of his grand­fa­ther, Jake (But­ter­field) trav­els from Florida to Wales in search of answers. There, he finds a time loop that takes him from 2016 to 1943, and a school pop­u­lated by ex­tra­or­di­nary chil­dren — and their even more ex­tra­or­di­nary head­teacher.

WE KNOW TIM Bur­ton’s Bat­man. We came very close to see­ing his Su­per­man. And if you ever wanted to know what Bur­ton’s X-men would look like, here’s your chance. For not only does Miss Pere­grine’s Home

For Pe­cu­liar Chil­dren come from Fox, the stu­dio that owns Mar­vel’s mighty mu­tants, and is writ­ten by Jane Gold­man, who was re­spon­si­ble for one of the best films in that fran­chise, X-men:

First Class, but it’s about a home for gifted young­sters who pos­sess fright­en­ing and shock­ing abil­i­ties that cause the out­side world to hate and fear them. Okay, here the set­ting isn’t present day (well, mostly) New York, but 1943 Wales; the kids aren’t called mu­tants — rather, they’re pe­cu­liars — and their head­teacher isn’t a bald bloke in a wheel­chair but Eva Green in all her ev­er­green glory. Es­sen­tially, though, the debt is clear.

Be­ing a Tim Bur­ton film, there are key dif­fer­ences, of course. No X-men movie to date has fea­tured a scene where two stop-mo­tion pup­pets have a knife fight, or a young girl who de­vours a chicken leg with the hid­den mouth at the back of her head, or a group of ra­pa­cious rot­ters who feast on a plate full of hu­man eye­balls. More’s the pity.

These are in­deed de­cid­edly Bur­tonesque flour­ishes, but they’re ac­tu­ally few and far between. Sur­pris­ing, be­cause the Pere­grine books by author Ran­som Riggs — who sounds like he es­caped from a Bur­ton movie him­self — feel like they were as­sem­bled with the Wild-haired Wiz­ard Of Wack­i­ness (TM, all rights re­served) in mind. They’re dark. They’re twisted. They’re wickedly funny. They’re right up Bur­ton’s Beetle­juicy boule­vard.

Yet this is the direc­tor in re­served mode. He’s clearly op­er­at­ing on a dif­fer­ent level — there’s a not-so-sub­tle thread about the hor­rors of World War II, when one group of peo­ple was de­ter­mined to wipe out those who were dif­fer­ent in any way (the bad guys here are called Hol­low­gasts, a word not a mil­lion miles re­moved from holo­caust). And, in mo­ments such as the one where Miss Pere­grine, es­sen­tially a hu­man time-turner, stops the world sec­onds be­fore a deadly Ger­man at­tack and rewinds it to the strains of Run Rab­bit

Run, Bur­ton aims for, and achieves, awe where once he might have gone for guf­faw. (Don’t even try to fig­ure out the con­fus­ing time-travel shenani­gans that drive the film — you have nei­ther enough black­board nor enough chalk.)

It still feels as though the direc­tor is hold­ing back, though, per­haps con­cerned that au­di­ences might baulk at an over­dose of odd. Weirdly, he only goes full Bur­ton for the ut­terly daft third act, fea­tur­ing both a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it direc­tor cameo and ar­guably the worst down-with-da-kidz use of dance mu­sic in cinema his­tory. Oth­er­wise, the film­mak­ing is largely straight­for­ward. It’s his first film in years to fea­ture nei­ther a Depp, a Bon­ham Carter or — most shock­ingly of all — a Danny Elf­man score (there’s one for future pub quizzes), and it shows. It’s all a lit­tle bland, pre­vi­ously a four-let­ter word around Bur­ton’s gaff. Even the hero — Asa But­ter­field’s gawky, geeky, gan­gly Jake — has a stan­dard hero’s jour­ney, and But­ter­field, a fine young ac­tor, strug­gles to en­gage with the char­ac­ter.

Thank good­ness, then, for the won­der­ful Eva Green. Don’t be fooled by the ti­tle — Miss Pere­grine doesn’t show up for the first half-hour, then flits in and out (this is very much Jake’s story). But when she is on screen, Green is a quirky de­light with her bor­rowed-from-a-manga eyes con­stantly scru­ti­n­is­ing her sur­round­ings (like a bird, you could say), and that crisp not-quite-french-nor-english-ei­ther ac­cent mix­ing ex­po­si­tion with off-kil­ter lines about killing po­lice­men. She’s hav­ing a blast, as is Samuel L Jackson, who shows up even later in pro­ceed­ings as the sharp-toothed, sharper-talk­ing vil­lain of the piece.

The pe­cu­liar chil­dren them­selves are an im­pres­sively creepy kooky spooky ooky bunch. Ella Pur­nell (the new new Keira Knight­ley) as the lighter-than-air Emma is given most screen time, and a ro­mance with Jake that fails the chem­istry test, but whether it’s the mys­te­ri­ous shrouded twins (Joseph and Thomas Od­well) or the mis­chievous in­vis­i­ble boy Mil­lard (Cameron King), the kids are cap­ti­vat­ing. They’re clearly not al­right — re­liv­ing the same day over and over again for a cen­tury has per­haps un­bur­dened one of two of them of their san­ity, some­thing the film touches on but never re­ally ex­plores — but when they’re on screen, you want to know more about them. That’s how these po­ten­tial fran­chises sucker you in, with the prom­ise of what’s to come. If that in­volves Bur­ton throw­ing off his shack­les, though, we’re there. Per­haps we might sug­gest go­ing whole hog: how about Miss Pere­grine’s Home For Pe­cu­liar X-men? chris he­witt

ver­dict nei­ther as dark, funny nor pe­cu­liar as you’d ex­pect from tim bur­ton. but there’s still much here to ad­mire, not least of which is eva Green smok­ing a pipe. other films, take note: more eva Green smok­ing a pipe, please.

One of these kids is do­ing her own thing.

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