Tim Burton has directed or had his hands in some of my all time favorite movies- BeetleJuice, Edward ScissorHands, Batman Returns, Mars Attacks, Sleepy Hollow, Sweeny Todd (I’ll stop here since I’m sure you get the point). Many of them were stories that could only be told with the quirkiness that’s known to come with Burton’s films, like a light shining in a dark and somewhat forgot edge of the real world, he has the ability to bring fiction into the real world and many it seems like it both belongs there and has been there forever. Needless to say when i learned the premise of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and that Burton would be directing it, I was beyond excited.
Before the movie came out, our Geek Girls book club decided we were going to read book one. I and several others enjoyed it, some were a little more lukewarm on it, but it was fairly clear that we all felt it would be a great book for Burton to run his style of adaptation on. So once the movie came out, a group of us got together to experience it on the big screen.
We’ll start with the obvious, this movie is more like a shadow of the book than an adaptation for the big screen. It’s a common thing, book to movie means you’re going to have changes, sometimes pretty big changes, but usually the bones of the story stay in tact and you can sometimes see the justification for the edits. One of the most common changes is the need for more action and less storytelling, since a picture is worth 1,000 words we can get to the point faster and don’t need as much narrational descriptions. However for those of you who’ve read the book, you know there’s already a fair amount of excitement and adventure in it already, especially since this isn’t supposed to be the next Die Hard.
The need for more action apparently won out again over a solid story telling, and the result is less than amazing, and more, oh I hate to say it, but it’s boring. I wanted so badly to be lost in the world of peculiars, to be taken away from reality and given an alternate world for my brain to dance around in for a few hours. Instead I was left with a soundtrack that didn’t match the movie the way it should have, characters that weren’t allowed to stand out, actors wasted, and a storyline so mangled i couldn’t even recognize most of it.
Maybe I’m being too hard on it because of the story I already had in my head, but I am truly disappointed in this movie. It had some bright spots that did improve on the book like Eva Green’s fantastic reinterpretation of Miss Peregrine…much less harsh and nun-like, Green’s take was more eccentric, more of what you’d expect from someone in charge of a home for peculiars. The scene in which they all go outside to watch the loop reset was also wonderfully done in the whimsical style that you’d expect. Sam Jackson is an amazing bad guy, as he’s shown time and again, and his speeches even through the sharp and numerous teeth are an inspiringly wicked combination of both sinister and comical.
However, covering up those bright spots were truly awful performances by Chris O’Dowd, not enough Judi Dench, and a choppy story. If you haven’t read the book, you’re also probably left feeling a little confused as to what the story is actually about. You don’t get the full grasp of any of the characters, like the protagonist’s father (O’Dowd) isn’t developed enough to make you think he’s anything beyond a overly depressed alcoholic who like’s birds but for some reason care’s that his son isn’t depressed beyond belief. You don’t know that Jake comes from a fairly wealthy family which affords his father the ability to be a try everything for a little while but give up in the end on everything kind of guy. Without this backstory you’re left scratching your head wondering what’s the deal with that guy?
The menace that is Mr. Barron and his cronies is explained in such an odd way that you’re left not really feeling scared of them. They eat eyeballs of children, sure, okay. Some of them are invisible and disfigured…an odd combination but still, that’s fine. But outside of collecting all the bird ladies, of which there are only two quick and easy to miss mentions that they will most likely be killing the bird ladies, we don’t really have a firm handle on what the big bad’s end game really is. As if they were halfway through filming and said, hey, you know what, we could use some protagonistic type characters here.
All in all I only give it 2 stars out of 5 from a movie that with a little more love and a lot more Burton would have probably been added to my list of favorites. What did you think? If you haven’t read the book, did you find the movie hard to follow or did you find it a fun little romp through the time loop?