"Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children" is a fantasy tale about love, discovery and time travel, packed with deliciously dark 3D visuals and typical Tim Burton quirkiness. Based on the bestselling YA novel by Ransom Riggs, the movie features a young boy on a quest to find himself and the truth about his grandfather’s gruesome stories amidst deadly consequences.

The plot

The story starts off simple, before dissolving into gleeful incoherence.

Jake, played by Asa Butterfield, is your average teenager from Florida, struggling to fit in, who holds on to his grandpa’s tales of peculiar children, monsters and a headmistress who can morph into a peregrine falcon at will. Of course, the grandpa soon gets brutally murdered, mouthing some cryptic last words to the terrified Jake. Based on the advice of a therapist, Jake and his father go on a short ‘recovery’ trip to an isle off the coast of Wales which offers the boy the right pretext to explore his grandfather’s mysterious origins and test the veracity of his tales.

Before he knows it, he stumbles upon a crumbling and decadent mansion and meets the characters with magical abilities he has almost grown up with. In particular, Jake seems to form a special bond with Emma, a blonde beauty whose special ability is to manipulate air, and hence must wear lead shoes to prevent herself from floating away.

Jake is torn between two lives- he can return to his boring existence in Florida with his parents and therapy or he can join the peculiar children and live eternally in the time loop of September 3, 1945 on a far-flung island.

Naturally before he can make up his mind, disaster strikes, and Jake realizes that there are monsters called the ‘Hollowgast’ out there, hunting down peculiars for a grisly experiment and that he and the peculiar children must use their wits and powers to save the day.

What's hot, what's not

The premise is relatively easy to understand and somewhat original, but the intricacies are hard to entangle especially in the latter half, leaving behind plenty of plotholes for tumblr fangirls to solve.

The script lacks the exuberance of the 3D visuals, and the secondary characters seem somewhat stunted but Burton makes up for it with his playful gothic sensibility. Both Asa Butterflied (as Jake) and Ella Purnell (as Emma) deliver compelling performances and Samuel L. Jackson as the primary villain is perfectly menacing and grotesque- the customary cardboard bad guy of a children’s movie.  

This film is as much as a novel adaptation as it is a Tim Burton movie.

Familiar themes of alienation and growing up resurface. Jake isn’t as quirky and lonely as Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands, but he has the distinct odd-one-out pallid kid vibe, like Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice. Burton cheerfully plays with light and dark as he did in Corpse Bride- painting Florida and the real world in dark grey tones while the fantastical world of the children is all CGI special effects, vibrant and ebullient.  There are some notable departures from the book in the latter half in what would qualify as a rushed climax, but the frisky candyfloss action sequence near the end with a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo from the director himself is as outlandish as it satisfying.

Perhaps not one of Burton’s best efforts, but "Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children" promises some decent and dark fun. Rating 3.5/5

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