10 October 2016

Movie Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Last night, I went to see  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, with my student. In the ideal world, I would have read the book before I went to see the movie, but what are you gonna do? 

The best thing I can say about Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is that it got me a little curious about its source material. That, and the visuals are stunning. It's a beautiful film with very good CGI. A real treat.

But in my experience, a film will not have a lasting impact on me simply because it's beautiful. And it's not that difficult to create great visuals with today's technology, so it's not that much of an achievement. Any movie, be it fantasy or drama, has to have a good story in order to have a lasting impact, and I'm already beginning to forget some parts of this movie.

Like I said, I haven't read the book, so I don't know if it suffers from the same problems as the movie. I certainly hope not.

The movie follows a teenage boy named Jake (really?), who is very much an outcast and doesn't have any friends. His parents are kind of absent and the only person who he has a real connection with is his grandfather, who has dementia. When the grandfather dies under mysterious circumstances, it prompts Jake to start investigating into his grandfather's past which eventually leads him to Miss Peregrine and her Home for Peculiar Children.

A lot of people compare this movie's premise and even its title to the X-men franchise. And yes, the resemblance is striking. Just like with that old sci fi show, Heroes, there's no escaping the similarities. There are also parallels to be drawn to The Princess Bride, and Back to the Future. As well as the popular creepypasta character, Slender Man. So, there are already some pretty big issues with the movie's originality. Plus, there movie is riddled with pretty much every trope you can find in a YA book/movie. The protagonist who feels like he doesn't fit in, and doesn't know his own importance; the absent idiot parents; the incredible family secret; the rival character who dislikes the protagonist for no particular reason, and so on. So the story is very by the numbers and it gets predictable very fast.

Which is a bit disappointing, because the premise, despite being unoriginal, has a lot of potential. The mystery surrounding Jake's grandfather and his past is is very intriguing and it makes you want to keep watching the movie. Unfortunately, there isn't much teasing going on, and we as the audience get all of the answers pretty quickly, mostly through exposition and flashbacks (can you spell "lazy"?).

The story also suffers from a few logical problems. I can't go into details because of spoilers, but there are certain actions that according to this world's rules have certain results, and there is no logical explanation as to why it has to be this way. I know it's a fantasy movie, but a little logic and consistency isn't much to ask even when it comes to fantasy.

Another thing that disappoints me - and I know other reviewers have mentioned it too - is that it's a Tim Burton movie, but it doesn't look or feel like one. As a Tim Burton fan (old school Tim Burton, I may add), I was hoping to see some typical Tim Burton stuff. And there were a few elements that took me back to movies like Edward Scissorhands, and those moments were pretty grotesque (in a good, Burton-esque way), But if I didn't know that Burton was the director, I never would have guessed it. It's like he didn't put any of his soul into this production. Like he was only in it for the paycheck.

This movie's biggest problem, though, is that it doesn't know what kind of film it wants to be. It's fantasy, it's horror (pretty gruesome for a kids' movie too), it's romance. It has some Steampunk elements and time travel. It starts off as a scary movie, but gets goofy and cartoonish towards the third act. The best way I can describe this movie is that it's a patchwork of different genres and story elements that don't really belong together.

I can't finish this review without mentioning the characters and the acting. Eva Green is very entertaining as the title character (and I just love her accent). The rest of the cast gives serviceable performances. Nothing special at all. And it's not the actors' fault too, it's just that their characters aren't very interesting. I was looking forward to seeing Samuel L. Jackson as the main villain, but his character turned out to be a joke. He's scary looking and he's very evil, and he loves puns. Not a far cry from Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze (now that's scary!).

My thirteen year old student liked this movie, though, so I think it works for this particular demographic. Then again, there are scenes that are too violent to be in a movie meant for kids, so I can't recommend it as a family movie.

The fact is, I wouldn't recommend it at all. Definitely not worth the 135 Swedish crowns a ticket.

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