Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  RogerEbert.com (1 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (1 Star)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children [2016] (directed by Tim Burton, screenplay by Jane Goldman based on the book [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Ransom Riggs [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) will certainly confuse many viewers, intrigue others (as they begin to understand what's being attempted here) and finally disappoint still more.

For honestly, both the book(s) and the current film largely comprise a rather intriguing project.  Whether Readers of the book(s) and/or Viewers of the current film will find the project successful will largely depend on whether they believe that the well of contemporary (Anglo) young adult culture is deep enough to allow one to simply take even a fairly wide array of motifs / elements from said contemporary culture and blend them in a novel way to produce _a new story_ that wouldn't feel, well, "derivative."

So the story here involves a young Harry Potter-ish teen named Jake (played by Asa Butterfield) who instead of living in England begins the story growing-up in a nondescript, suburban-like town somewhere in Florida.  In every way (and not unlike Bella of the Twilight Saga) it would seem that Jake was utterly average, except, of course, he was not.  Indeed, like Harry Potter, it turns out that there are beings, who seem to live on the edge of this realm and another one, who want to get him.  Why?  Well, that's (necessarily) initially "unclear" ... 'cept he has a LOTR-like Gandalf-ish-like grandfather (played by Terence Stamp) who's spent most of Jake's childhood trying to "protect" him from the forces that would want to kill him and _instructing him_ (through what seemed to be rather fanciful tales) as to the forces that he would one day encounter.

Well early in the story, coming home from work (as a common stock-boy at a giant Walmart-like store) he finds that his grandfather was not at home but rather had been apparently dragged-out of his home (by something?) into the swampy woods behind their suburban Florida home.  There, in the swampy woods behind their otherwise quite contemporary suburban Florida home, Jake finds his Gandalf-y grandfather mortally wounded.  And Gandalf-y grandpa's last words evoked in Jake's memory a particular story that he had told him about his youth as a war-orphan (Jewish?) from Poland ... in 1940s Narnia-like England, er Wales, that Jake (and his reluctant family) then pursue ...

When Jake and his reluctant dad (played by Chris O'Dowd) who honestly had thought his dad (Jake's Gandalf-y grandpa) was always a bit on the extravagant ("nuts") side come to Wales, they find that the house that he would talk about had actually been abandoned decades ago, destroyed by a quite random bomb during a German air-raid.  'Cept, of course ... Jake happens upon (at the time, he doesn't even know how) another, (again) somewhat Narnia-ish, way to enter into the house (and back into time ...) when the house was NOT destroyed at all.

And that's when the heart of the story really begins, when Jake enters into the house that Miss Peregrine (played quite wonderfully by IMHO quite perfectly cast Eva Green) maintained for "Peculiar Children" (children with X-Men-like "gifts" that made them hard to "fit in" in the world of their time).  Grandpa had been one of those children with a "peculiar gift" and it turned out that Jake was one as well ...

Much ensues ...

Among that which ensues makes obvious (and creative / amusing) reference to both films as varied as the quite silly (yet definitely memorable / enjoyable) Ground Hog Day [1993] where "everyday was the same day, until..." and the great young adult melodrama (circa 1910 / 1990 ;-) Titanic [1997] ;-).

It's all _quite creative_ and almost perfectly tailored for the aesthetics of a film-maker like Tim Burton [wikip] [IMDb].

My ONE (but BIG) complaint would be that, "out of the blue" the CHIEF VILLAIN in the story becomes "a crazed black man" (!?) (played actually quite well, but ... by Samuel L. Jackson) who turns out to be THE ONLY PERSON OF COLOR IN THE ENTIRE FILM.



Is _that_ "part of contemporary (Anglo) youth culture" as well?  I hope not ...

Reluctantly 1 Star ... despite some genius otherwise.

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