Starring: Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Samuel L Jackson, Ella Purnell, Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Stamp, Allison Janneyell
Directed By: Tim Burton
Plot: Based on the best selling novel, Jake (Butterfield) investigates the mysterious death of his grandfather (Stamp) which leads him to an island where peculiar children with special abilities are protected by Miss Peregrine (Green), but Jake might hold the key to their continued survival.
What Works: Tim Burton does it again. It was so nice watching this film after having seen that disappointing Alice sequel where someone spent an entire movie trying imitate Burton’s style. Burton can’t be imitated correctly. There is only one Tim Burton, and his impact on film is immeasurable. The story here is pretty great, though there are some problems I’ll highlight later. It’d be easy to write this off as some kind of X-Men knockoff, or just another teen lit film, but that wouldn’t be fair. I think this stands on its own, partially due to the superb cast, which do some great work, particularly Butterfield, Greene, and Purnell. Some cast… not so much, but most of the did a great job. Visually the film is impressive, with some stunning sequences (like the ship scene, for example).
What Doesn’t Work: Sam Jackson plays one of the dumbest villains in history. There’s literally a scene where the kids lure him into a trap, that he openly admits he knows is a trap, but figures “hey, why not?” Worst. Villain. Ever. Also, Chris O’Dowd seems to be sleepwalking through his role, like he was being forced at gunpoint to be in this film. It’s not just that he’s bad in this film, it’s like he’s not acting. He seems to be almost catatonic in every scene he’s in, offering nothing to help his character or the story. He’s given some good performances in the past, so I don’t know why he chose to phone this in. Jackson is at least his usual over the top self, so even though his character is poorly written, he is at least entertaining. O’Dowd can’t even manage to be entertaining. Also, who was this film made for? I wouldn’t take my kids to see this. This is terrifying. There are so many sequences in this that I couldn’t imagine showing to my kids. The main villain eat eyeballs, there are many images of characters missing their eyes. The twins in the film are terrifying when finally revealed. There’s a transformation flashback sequence for the villains that’s quite disturbing. There’s even a jump scare involving a quick death of one of the supporting characters (a little like Jackson’s death in Deep Blue Sea) where a character is eliminated mid speech. Granted, this film got a PG-13 rating, but it still feels like it was supposed to be a kids film. It’s like Tim Burton has a completely different idea of what is OK for kids to watch. I’d remind parents that this film definitely earns that PG-13 rating, and I’d be very cautious before taking little ones to this. It is quite nightmarish at times.
Final Word: This is a problematic film that I enjoyed more than I probably should have. I appreciate what Burton wanted to do, but his execution is a bit off. Still, it was nice seeing his actual style, instead of the imitation crap we got with Alice Through The Looking Glass. However, this is a kids film, adapted from a young adult novel, that has no business being seen by actual kids. What place does it actually have? Will adults enjoy this? Perhaps, somewhat. I’m still not even 100% sure I know what to make of this film just yet. In the end, I enjoyed it. It’s not one of my favorite films of the year, but it would be in the tier below that. Like, if I actually released a top 50 list, I’m sure it would sneak in. But it would need a wide net like that in order to be in my “top”. It’s nowhere near the bottom though.
FINAL GRADE: B