Movie Review: Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children (2016)

Posted: October 21, 2016 in Comedy, Drama, Romance
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Teenage outcast Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield) lives in Florida with his parents.   While growing up, Jake’s grandfather Abe (Terrance Stamp) about his adventures fighting monsters during WWII.  One night, Jake receives a frantic call from his grandfather, Abe, and travels to Abe’s   home to find it broken into, and Abe missing.  When he finds Abe, he is dying.  Abe’s last words to Jake are the bird, the loop, and September 3rd 1943.  Jake sees a giant monster hovering over Abe, and begins to think his grandfather’s stories may be true.  After visiting a psychiatrist named Dr. Golan (Allyson Janney) for several weeks, Jake and his father Franklin (Chris O’Dowd) decide to go to Wales, where Franklin is researching a book.

Jake does a little research on his own and finds his grandfather’s school was bombed to rubble in 1943. While searching through the rubble, Jake goes into a cave and sees some of the kids from his grandfather’s stories.  He rushes back to the hotel, except its 1943.  He goes back to the school where he meets the headmistress Miss Peregrine, (Eva Green) a Ymbryne who can turn into a falcon, and falls in love with one of the teenaged students named Emma Bloom, (Ella Purnell) a Peculiar who can turn air into hurricane force winds. Jake learns that Miss Peregrine created a loop that repeats the day the school was destroyed, stops the day just before the bomb falls, and resets the loop to the beginning of the day.  The chief Hollowcast Monster, Barron (Samuel L Jackson) resorts to eating the eyes of Peculiars like Emma to regain semi-human form, and is plotting to kidnap Miss Peregrine and use her powers to achieve immortality. Will Jake stop Baron’s plot?  Will he save Miss Peregrine and his grandfather’s schoolmates from destruction?  Will he find love with Emma in 1943?

Miss Peregrine’s School is obviously a metaphor for the Holocaust.  Jake’s family is Jewish so when his grandfather speaks of fighting monsters during WWII, anyone with any knowledge of history would recognize the monsters are the Nazis. I think the books and the movie are a good starting point for kids who might not have learned about the Holocaust in school.  But then, the story tries to become a love story, and the love story is awkward to say the least. Jake is in love with his grandfather’s girlfriend, who’s stick in 1943.  What the Harry Potter movies did well is they kept Harry free of romantic entanglements, and concentrated on the wizarding.  This movie gets bogged down by an unnecessary love story, and that detracts from a good story. To top it off, the climax of the movie is something out of a tv show.  The story is far from flawless but it is good, despite obvious similarities to Harry Potter.

Eva Green is perfect for the role of Miss Peregrine.  She is sprightly yet stern, and captures the whimsy and the strictness of the role perfectly. She handles the lighter moments and more serious moments with equal ease. The affectation of her smoking a pipe is a good one in keeping with the stodgy matriarchal architype.  Samuel L. Jackson seems to enjoy playing the evil leader of the Hollows, he does it with a toothy grin and a glint in his eye. Asa Butterfield is very good, as the outcast who doesn’t quite fit in America, who fits in perfectly with the kids with the special abilities.  He became famous in another Holocaust themed movie, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, and he does a pretty good American accent in this movie.  Judi Dench makes a small cameo.

Tim Burton makes a nice comeback to his visual glory here with all kinds of odd creatures lurking about.  Burton can use images for either comedy or suspense, like very few directors, and he does both visual comedy and suspense in this movie.  It’s nice to see Burton feeling comfortable, and able to flex his creative muscles.  The pacing is a little slow at times, and the length was too long, and could have used some editing.  But Burton gets good performances from everyone especially the younger actors, so it is an enjoyable way to spend a coupe hours.

Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children:  A flight of fancy.


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