Starring: Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Ella Purnell, Samuel L Jackson, Terence Stamp, Chris O’Dowd
“Because our abilities don’t fit in the outside world, we live in places like this, where no-one can find us.” (Miss Peregrine, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children)
If you’ve read anything about Tim Burton’s latest film you’ll probably have seen countless comparisons to the X-Men movies, due to the fact it’s set in a school occupied with children with special powers.
But I’m not that lazy.
Instead, I hereby declare that Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is in fact Tim Burton’s version of The Raggy Dolls, the popular British ‘80s and ‘90s cartoon in which a group of wee dudes with abnormalities team up to fight crime or something.
(I don’t know if the Raggy Dolls actually fought crime, I didn’t really watch it. I just liked the theme tune.)
Tim Burton’s The Raggy Dolls™ tells the story of Jake, a young lad struggling to get to grips with the mysterious death of his grandfather.
For his birthday Jake receives an old book that used to belong to his grandfather. In it is a letter from Miss Peregrine, the headmistress of a school located on a remote Welsh island for children with special abilities.
Heading off to Wales to see if Miss Peregrine is still alive, Jake discovers that the school – which is now on its arse following a bombing during WWII – actually sits next to a cave with a time portal in it called a ‘loop’.
When he enters the loop Jake finds himself in 1943, the school still intact. There he meets Ms Peregrine and the ‘peculiar’ children who stay at her school.
They live in a perpetual Groundhog Day situation, constantly rewinding time just before a German bomb hits their school and therefore relieving the same day over and over again. They never age, and they’re happy.
All is not well though, because there are some evil bastards who, without wanting to spoil too much, want to kill off the peculiars in a not-very-pleasant manner.
That would be telling, obviously. And since I sat through more than two hours to find out, you’re going to do the bloody same.
As you’d expect from its 127-minute runtime, Miss Peregrine’s School Full Of Creepy Wee Pricks is a slow burner.
The first half-hour in particular crawls along at a pace that resembles continental drift, taking an age to get Jake and his dad (more on him in a bit) to Wales so he can find the school.
Once he finally gets there and starts meeting all the children things start to pick up, as this is where the mostly brilliant cast gets its chance to shine.
Eva Green is fantastic as the titular Miss Peregrine, finding just the right balance between eccentricity and humanity.
She’s also ably supported by a bunch of great child actors, from Ella Purnell as the token love interest to the adorable young Pixie Davies as a little girl with super strength.
There’s only one weak link and that’s sadly Scottish actor Finlay MacMillan as a stroppy teen who can temporarily resurrect the dead. In fairness to him, he was probably limited by his need to speak ‘properly’ and not lay on his Glaswegian accent too thickly, but the result is a wooden, emotionless performance.
Ditching his memorable Irish accent for a dire Fauxmerican effort, he’s such a let-down in a film that’s almost entirely well cast.
Thankfully this is made up for with Samuel L Jackson, who appears in the film’s second half. Going too far into his character would mean entering spoiler territory so let’s just say it’s the best villain performance he’s ever played.
Despite its slow start the film continues to pick up pace and culminates in a brilliant, action-packed conclusion in an unlikely British location.
It may be the sort of final showdown you’ve seen a million times before, where all the characters get to use their unique abilities in some way, but it’s still a satisfyingly energetic finale in a film that takes an age to get out of first gear.
Miss Peregrine’s Big Mansion Full Of Kids With Extra Teeth And Who Can Fly And Shit isn’t an overwhelming return to form for Tim Burton, but it’s the start of one.
It’s the equivalent of a runner surviving a car crash, going through the rehabilitation process and learning to slowly jog again.
It isn’t the marathon-winning Burton films that were Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice or even Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (look, I love it), but compared to his more recent race attempts – most of which were Did Not Finishes – this one at least shows signs of recovery.
Unlike that metaphor, which tripped over the fucking start line.
HOW CAN I SEE IT?
Miss Peregrine’s Big House Of Mutant Sprogs Who Could Probably Fuck Up A Grown Adult Just By Looking At Them The Wrong Way is out in cinemas now.
SHOW ME THE TRAILER: