Sunday, October 9, 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

It is old home week yet again with the visionary Tim Burton. In "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," adapted from a young adult novel by Ransom Riggs, he has monstrously mixed results.

Jake (Asa Butterfield) is an awkward and passive young teenager in suburban Florida. Girls and social situations inhibit him. His only relief are the evenings with his grandfather, Abe (Terrence Stamp) who believes he once travelled the world, fighting supernatural beasts and was forced to take refuge in a Welsh estate for magical children in 1943.

Jake's dad, Franklin (Chris O' Dowd) thinks dear old dad is suffering from dementia and PTSD, scarred from the war. Jake, dark-haired and pale in the manner of Max from Where the Wild Things Are  and "Edward Scissorhands" looks quizzical and mystified. He is taken to a psychiatrist (Allison Janney). Seeing his grandfather's dead body sans eyes, the doctor suggests that a trip to Wales would perhaps stop the boy's nightmares and bring closure.

Once there, Jake manages to set out for the his grandfather's beloved place and finds a mansion in picturesque ruins, very like Disneyworld's Haunted Mansion. The mysterious story of Abe and his battle with creatures, set against the bland conformity of Tampa (the eerie against the commonplace) is much more vibrant and compelling than the quirky assortment of Addamsian characters featured in the home: a pair of papier-mâché twins, an Alice in Wonderland as light as air who must wear lead shoes, a boy with a hive of bees in his body, a girl that can command the plant world and an adorable little girl with an angry set of monster teeth in the back of her head.

It takes all kinds and Lady Gaga would feel right at home. The actor Eva Green does excellently as the stern but caring Miss Peregrine. The spots of tension between the jaded unimaginative father who represents the humdrum world and the frustrated Jake are the film's best moments and one wishes there were more.

Samuel L. Jackson appears in typecast form as public Meanie #1

When all is revealed in Burton's Caligari cabinet, the mind's eye turns into an over-stimulated Cyclops and it gets a little too much. The weird becomes rote and routine. Granted, the effects are fun and kids will enjoy watching marching skeletons attack and take control on amusement park grounds while the monsters are pelted with candy in the attitude of an old cartoon.

In "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" all is well in the peanut gallery. This is a Hallowtween parade and when the off-white shutters go askew, something wicked this way comes. Yet any cinema-dwelling Peculiar will tell you that it is far better to conceal than to show.

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