Tim Burton’s briefly controversial adaptation of YA novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is warm, funny, and at times, frustratingly conventional. The story centers on a boy (Asa Butterfield) who, following the freakish death of his beloved grandfather, journeys, with his easy-going ornithologist father (Chris O’Dowd), to a Welsh island, where he seeks to unlock the mysteries of his family’s past. He ends up in a Groundhog-Day-meets-X-Men situation. The narrative is well-paced, though we wish there were more digressions, like the stop-motion fight between dead baby dolls. While certain action scenes are pat and predictable, others—like a skeleton fight on a pier, set to techno music—are idiosyncratic. Burton’s last movie was the disappointing prestige film Big Eyes, and it’s a relief to see him return to his bailiwick: creating monsters like the Hollows—frightening, eyeless, gray giants with tentacles that shoot out of their round mouths. The peculiar children, on the other hand, are less exciting—not their powers, but their personalties; with the exception of a boy who, for the sake of the conflict, needs to be mean, they are bland and nice. Burton compensates for this with romance, and there’s a rather wondrous scene on a sunken ship that is vaguely evocative of Titanic. But if you’re expecting anything as spectacular as that movie, don’t hold your breath.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White