Starring: Asa Butterfield, Ella Purnell, Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson, Terence Stamp, Chris O'Dowd
Rated PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Fantasy Action/Violence and Peril
I saw this movie at my favorite theater, which is about twenty minutes away from my house. On the way home, this movie kept slipping from my mind so fast that I was debating whether or not to write a review. It's so empty of anything worth remembering that I can barely even describe the plot. Oh, it's competently made (Tim Burton is incapable of making anything unwatchable), but who cares about the plot or anyone in it? I didn't.
Jake (Butterfield) has always been entertained by stories from his grandfather Abe (Stamp) about a home for children with strange powers. His father (O'Dowd) is an unbeliever, but when Abe is murdered by a strange monster, he decides to find out for himself. It turns out that the stories were true, and the children, led by Miss Peregrine (Green), are living peacefully in a "time loop." But they're in danger from Abe's killer, a man named Barron, who wants them so he can live outside the time loop and become immortal, and...whatever.
I won't call "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" a bad movie. It's just that it seems to have been made on autopilot. There's no charm or personality in the film. When a fantasy movie like this really works, it stirs the mind and heart. Here, I was almost completely unmoved. This is especially strange coming from Tim Burton, who has made a career out of strange yet lovable characters and worlds.
The acting is okay, but no one has much charisma. Asa Butterfield is flat as Jake; the actor does what he can in an underwritten role. He has no chemistry with his co-star Ella Purnell, who plays Emma, a girl who has to wear lead shoes lest she float away. Eva Green adds some spark to the proceedings, but her character is strictly supporting. Samuel L. Jackson appears to be having fun playing an out and out villain, but like Green, his screen time is limited.
What's missing from this movie, apart from the obvious (interesting characters, a compelling story, and so on) is that Burton-esque whimsy. His heart isn't in this movie and it shows. This is yet another movie where everything gets drowned out by the special effects and everything gets broadened in an attempt to appeal to everyone around the world.
There is one worthwhile scene, though. It comes near the very end, sadly, and it's a fight between a bunch of skeletons straight out of a Ray Harryhausen movie and the Hollows, which look like Slenderman on overdrive. It's fun in a quirky and warped sort of way. Had this movie had more moments like that, I might have cared. Alas, it doesn't, and I didn't.