Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

There are times during this film when you get a sense of the old, mischievous Tim Burton, but this time-travelly YA novel adaptation is only fleetingly impressive, and once the story has been set in motion it hits all the requisite beats as young loner Jake (Asa Butterfield) goes from troubled teenage zero to world-saving hero. It’s a little like a gothic X-Men, with the excellent Eva Green’s Mary Poppins-esque Miss Peregrine watching over a group of children with disturbing special abilities; along with a firestarter and an invisible man, there’s also a kid who has a giant, snarling mouth in the back of her head, a boy who emits bees and a disturbed young gentleman who creates robot-style creatures that he then turns on one another in vicious, bloody battles. Some of this, coupled with the Pan’s Labyrinth-style monsters that attack Peregrine and her charges, is (I assume) too disturbing for small children, but Burton isn’t exactly making a film for adults either; in fact I’m surprised it did so well at the box office. Samuel L Jackson snarls his way through another generic, over-the-top villain performance and there are supporting turns by Chris O’Dowd, Judi Dench, Alison Janney, Rupert Everett and Terence Stamp that equally serve to establish the spirit of the affair, but sadly too many of the child characters are poorly written, the grandfather-father-son relationship at the heart of the film is cliched beyond belief and the internal time-travel logic is occasionally baffling (wormholes, loops, days repeating over and over, etc. etc.). (**½)