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First View Movie Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

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Not X-Men. These kids are much, much weirder.

Well now, wasn’t this a peculiar movie? Although that can be said for anything Director Tim Burton puts his hand to. Here he plies a Brit version of Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Call it a creepy Hogwarts with fewer kids and less lessons.

Superpowered, but not X-Men

These kids aren’t being groomed as superheroes or wizards. There will be no saving the world here. The children don’t even grow up. They just hope to survive and continue their ‘peculiar’ ways. (This might be because Patrick Stewart isn’t the headmaster, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The children are taken into a ‘found family’ with some semblance of normalcy, and safety from persecution. In their forever looping day, they experience sunshine, laughter, games, stories, and togetherness, which is actually more than Professor X did with his mutants.

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But both universes showcase time travel in different ways.

Is this a Groundhog Day film?

I went back and forth on this one. I have a very narrow vision of what constitutes a Groundhog Loop, and it’s not just jumping though time that counts (sorry, X-Men: Days of Future Past). And it’s not someone who doesn’t remember their previous day, so 50 First Dates, Eternal Sunshine, or Momento don’t fit either. You have to be stuck in an actual temporally infinite day, with or without a way out. So I’m going out on a fragile Burton-esque tree limb and say, yes, this is a Groundhog Loop.

What makes this case unique is that the loop is on purpose, with full intent, and no one wants to re-enter the normal timestream. Like a benign Dorian Grey portrait, the peculiar children would rapidly age and die. I’m not sure how long Miss Peregrine plans to keep herself and her students alive: conceivably forever?

Also, the endless day is set in the 1940s, so part of the fun is the period piece-ness of it all.

A boy full of bees

I really did think this was going to be another Superhero Mutant School going into the narrative, but looking at these kids, it’s clear their ‘gifts’ are more weird than useful. The twins wouldn’t have much of a life outside of the Home. A few others could pass for normal with adjustments like non-conducting gloves or heavy shoes. One just wears nice suits.

Some of the children’s gifts are more bizarre. Leave it to Burton to think up a boy full of bees, or a… well, what the girl with ringlets has. Then, the teen with unsavory necromancy skills showcases the sort of brilliant ethical misdirect from the best of Burton’s fertile ourve. (Nice callback to Ray Harryhausen too!)

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I’d like to see a series about the different Peculiar Homes, since they make a point of mapping them out. Maybe someday we could have a version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, with an inter-academy tournament. While this could still happen, sadly ‘our’ kids will have aged out of their perpetually youthful roles.

Sometimes the macabre perversity of Tim Burton really creeps me out, but Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was crafted with such fun and love of the material that the production is elevated past mere whimsy. This is a good story, and it ends well. It’s not quite an A level film, but I’ll take it.

Movie Grade: B+

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5 responses to “First View Movie Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)”

  1.  Avatar

    You might be (more?) interested in the book series this movie is based off. The books go much more in depth to the kid’s peculiarities and their world. A caveat – if you thought the movie had a macabre perversity, the books have even more.

  2. There’s a book? Awesomesauce. Although if it’s creepier, I might not have to skip some parts. I guess it made sense that Tim Burton would be attracted it.

    I understand why we had to see those dolls/abominations that Enoch liked to make, narratively. But it’s still freaking nightmare fuel. 😉

    Looking at the book description on amazon, it does seem like a cool series, especially with the inclusion of the vintage found photos. I’d like to do something like that someday.

    Thanks for the heads up! I’ll put it on my list to read if I find a used copy at Goodwill. (Someday I will. That’s my superpower…i mean my peculiarity!)

  3. Like yourself, I wasn’t aware of Ransom Riggs’ books until after I saw the film. I’ve got an epub copy of it somewhere but haven’t found the time to sit down and read it yet. For somme reason I’m busier since retiring than I was when I worked!

    I think the creepiest thing might be that the book and, subsequently, the film were based on some Victorian era founf photographs. I know that thet were very strange back then… just google “Victorian post mortem photography” and you can get an idea of where they set the normal bar!

    I don’t think anyone else could have captured the look for this film other than Tim Burton; his world view is just the right amount askew for this project. Throw in a Jane Goldman screenplay and I’m in the queue with my money in my hand!

  4. Pardon all my typos! First thing in the morning isn’t the time to be relying on those few touch typing lessons I took because I fancied the teacher!

  5. We all have teachers we crushed on. I actually once took a college course in Microbiology just because I fancied one of the students. We did end up dating, and we’re still friends, but more importantly — I discovered a love for cellular biology, immunology and pathology. I could have pursued that, but rock climbing, and then writing, took over.

    Okay, I just Googled Victorian post mortem photography and yeesh, those people were weird. Tim Burton is soooo all over this. He really does add something unusual to the Fantasy genre. I think David Lynch is made of the same cloth, but he’s a bit more vicious.

    Jane Goldman makes sense too, as an X-Men screenplay writer.

    So, “Finding Things” is my main Peculiarity…what’s yours?

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