Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children or An Attempted Intervention for Tim Burton

Sit down, Tim. We need to talk.

Now, don’t worry. We’re all friends here. We’re concerned. We want to help.

It’s just…well, I went back and looked at some of your old movies. Remember Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure? Remember Edward Scissorhands? Remember Big Fish? Aw, man, Big Fish, a tearjerker that was basically about how much you loved telling stories. What a good time.

Why did I bring that up? No reason. It’s just…I better come out and say it…I saw Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Tim. What happened to you?

You were the most creative! It didn’t matter what you were doing, I felt like no one else could do the things you did. Such style, such fun. Melancholic poignancy interweaving with expressionistic circus-style visuals. Pretty much up through Big Fish, I have infinitely fond memories of everything you’ve made.

I saw Miss Peregrine’s School for Gifted Youngsters an hour ago and I can already feel the loose grip that movie ever had on my brain lose the grip. So, what’s wrong? Where did you go?

See, the problem with Miss Peregrine’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is that there’s just so little soul to it. Like Alice in Wonderland (by the way, fuck you for that. I’m still not forgiving you), I clearly see what appealed to you and I clearly see where you chose to place a stamp. When we’re introduced to Jake (Asa Butterfield), living his boring-ass life in Florida, we see him visiting his grandpa Abe (Terence Stamp) in one of those classic Burton neighborhoods, an exaggerated and twisted 50s suburbia.

And after his grandpa Abe is killed by a mysterious creature, I see your stamp in Miss Peregrine’s (Eva Green) house, full of precocious kids in kitschy costumes living in an old gothic mansion. Like, makes total sense.

But what else did you do? There’s some interesting ideas, sure. The superpowered Peculiars live in a time loop that keeps them safe from the outside world, and from a group of monsters who seek to gain immortality through eating the eyeballs of Peculiars (sure, why not?) led by Samuel L. Jackson…sorry, Barron…a diabolic and power-mad scientist. We’ll talk about him in a little more in a second.

All of that I’m sure was either in the original book or in Jane Goldman’s script, so I still wonder…what did you bring to this specifically? There’s nothing stylistically interesting about this film. It’s filmed largely like every other Young Adult adaptation has been, barring a few flourishes here and there. The film is just tons of CGI layered over a few fairly standard locations. You created the Gotham City of Batman/Batman Returns, the towns of Big Fish, what is this?

The direction just isn’t there. I don’t know what’s wrong, even Big Eyes felt very distinctly like you. Miss Peregrine’s School for Gifted Witchcraft and Wizardry is just so blandly directed, totally workman in style and feel. I didn’t necessarily get the sense that you were directing this movie. Have you lost your way that much? There’s been a lot of lazy and mediocre, but this is the first time in a long time I actually felt like you were there for a paycheck. The pacing is desperately off too, but whatever, it happens with these sorts of movies.

You can’t leave the burden all on Eva Green. I mean, she’s up to it. Lord knows. Her Miss Peregrine is an enigmatic and complicated figure almost solely from a few looks and the way she holds herself, she’s not just scotch tape on this movie, she’s glue that makes me think for a minute or two at a time the film works.

No mistake though, she is absolutely carrying this film. Asa Butterfield is just given so little to define his character, no real traits or loves. In other words, he’s a bad YA protagonist, designed to be projected on and not to be lived with. That rests true for most of the kids, and you waste Chris O’Dowd and Allison Janney in minor nothings, including taking away his Irish accent. IT’S LIKE THE MOST CHARMING THING ABOUT CHRIS O’DOWD! THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING? Samuel L. Jackson is trying, but he too is too bland to do anything. This isn’t Kingsman. These characters have no defining traits beyond everyone saying they’re peculiar or different, or that they’re not those things, but no one has any character building to show that they are.

That’s the whole problem, isn’t it Tim? You thought it was enough to literally slap the label of “peculiar” on this film and have your actors say a whole bunch of made-up nonsense that some writers came up with and hope to god that no one would notice you weren’t trying and that you could eventually just squeak out the budget with t-shirt sales at Hot Topic. That’s not enough man.

I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.

Grade: D