Directed by: Tim Burton – Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson
Based on the novel of the same name, even the title screams ‘Tim Burton project’. After all, he is known as the king of quirky, and for making the unpalatable watchable. His unique, always-twilight, style has elevated numerous projects, and he manages to find that balance between creeping people out but entertaining them in a cute way. This made him the perfect candidate to direct this tween-lit hit.
Florida native, Jake (Butterfield) has always been enthralled by his grandfather Abraham’s (Stamp) stories about the children’s home in Wales in which he grew up, and the special characters that inhabited it. However, the tales are dismissed as whimsy by everyone else. But when Abraham is found dead in mysterious circumstances, Jake must take a trip to find the place where his grandfather grew up, and get answers to some questions. Unfortunately, he is not the only one who has an interest in the home, and he gets sucked into a mysterious world that he is totally unprepared for.
This screams Burton. It has all his trademarks including the loner protagonist. The story allows him to go wild with puppetry and effects (I didn’t want to spoil it so hence the brief synopsis but trust me on this) and he employs all his best known moves. Everything he learned from Frankenweenie onwards is here, and he seems to relish in it like a kid in a playground. This unfortunately means there’s nothing new in his bag of tricks here, but in fairness, his old tricks are so tried and tested who cares. What Burton does he does well and if it ain’t broken…
Butterfield (who you will remember from The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Hugo) is all grown up here but still has enough awkward teen in him to play Jake. He is ably supported by a multitude of fellow teen and child actors playing the peculiars, and Eva Green in a stunning turn as Miss Peregrine. She manages to convey so much with just a sweep of her hand or a single tear, that you really feel connected with her. And Samuel L. Jackson is the perfect baddie. Again I don’t want to spoil things, but nobody eats eyeballs with the relish he does.
The soundtrack compliments the look and the performances perfectly, and in 3D this movie really does become an assault to most of the senses. It is more innocent than some of Burton’s other work (except perhaps the aforementioned Frankenweenie) which is a necessity given the target audience. But he is also conscious of his adult viewers, and although based on a tween book, his grown up fans will still enjoy the whimsy and childlike wonder that are a staple of all Burton’s films.
Darker than you would expect given the source material, and full of Burton’s tricks and treats, this is extremely enjoyable if (for an adult audience) a bit tame. But if you like Burton’s previous offerings, you will enjoy this, and it is impossible not to be entertained by it even if it is not your usual choice of fare.
In Cinemas Now!