Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, B
Rated PG-13, 126 minutes
Unsurprisingly, the new Tim Burton drama "Miss Peregine's Home for Peculiar Children" is both weird and wonderful, and while it unconventional channels odd, dark yet familiar themes he's accustomed to, it also works because of solid source material, clever visuals and a terrific cast. When tragedy strikes close to home, 16-year-old Jacob "Jake" Portman ("Hugo's" Asa Butterfield) is forced to travel to a mysterious island in order to discover what really happened. After stumbling into what seems to be a different world, Jake is introduced to the extraordinary Miss Peregrine (Eva Green of "300: Rise of an Empire" and TV's "Penny Dreadful") and her peculiar children at her Home for Peculiar Children. But when what seems to be a fairytale takes a horrific turn, Jake is forced to make a life altering decision in order to protect the ones he loves from the monsters of his grandfather's past, the creepy Hollows and the dangerous Wights led by the terrifying Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson). Based on the novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs, the delightfully odd yet fun "Miss Peregine's Home for Peculiar Children" lives up to its title in many ways but is perfectly suited to an offbeat director like Burton, and this returns him to fine, strange form after the dreadful "Alice in Wonderland" films and the awful "Dark Shadows," this proves he still has a unique touch. Written by Jane Goldman of "Kingsman: Secret Service" and the first two new "X-Men" films, it's a nice take on Riggs' wholly original novel, and filled with some clever touches and strong visuals that seem perfectly in place with the film's odd, somewhat dark tone. As well, Burton has assembled a strong cast who delivers the goods, including the lanky Butterfield (seemingly growing taller with each of his films), who's a great Jake, along with Green as the gothic but kindly Miss Peregine and a perfectly cast Jackson as the chompy chief antagonist. Along the way, also watch for Terence Stamp, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Chris O'Dowd and in a tiny supporting role, Oscar-winner Judi Dench. Two drawbacks for a film geared toward a younger age group: it goes on too long (at 2 hours), and there are many intense moments - those Wights and Hollowgasts are genuinely frightening creatures that may leave a few bad dreams. However, kids should get a kick out of all the peculiar children's different "gifts," including incredibly inhuman strength, pyrokinetic skills and the girl with the extra mouth in the back of her head. This is nothing new for Burton, who again champions the familiar theme of "it's OK to be different" in the unusual but winning "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children."