Not Horribly Peculiar: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

I’m a bit late to the party, but I got around to catching “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” at my local theatre last week. As a librarian, I feel it’s my duty to talk about this film, solely because it is based off of a widely popular book (with graphic novel offshoot). That, and it’s one of the geeky things I’m able to do right now.

I’ll do my best to not spoil anything for you, so pardon if things are a bit vaguer than expected.


==The Pitch==

“Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” is a movie based off of the book by the same name. We follow our protagonist, Jacob, on his journey to find Miss Peregrine and her orphanage, which is filled with “peculiar” children, each with various abilities such as the strength of ten men (in the body of a little girl) to the ability to float and manipulate air.

Of course, there are issues that crop up, such as Jacob’s grandfather’s murder, and the strange tentacled monsters that only Jacob can see. . .

==What You Get==

I’m trying not to spoil much, but you are getting the core plot of the book with a few artistic licenses, followed by a bit more closure than expected when I walked in.

==The Good==

One of the main reasons my wife and I wanted to see this: Eva Green and her wardrobe. We loved her work in Penny Dreadful, and my wife loves that type of clothing, so from the costuming standpoint alone, we were going.

The casting itself was pretty spot on. While Burton has been given a great deal of flak for casting Samuel L. Jackson as The Baron (who is considered “the most horrible man”…and is the only person of color in the film), the acting quality was solid, and the choice for cast members for the different characters was great.

The special effects were also rather solid, ranging from the Slenderman-like tentacled monsters to the various peculiarities of the children (animating dolls, invisibility, projecting thoughts as light from a kid’s eyes, a large mouth on the back of the head, etc). It didn’t feel like cheesy CGI, and the usage of it was fitting.

From a story standpoint, we see many things staying true to the novel, while also seeing some changes, specifically the feeling of an actual ending. The first book ended with a cliffhanger (everyone being on a boat in dire straights), and while I was expecting the movie to end the same way (when everyone was on the boat), I was surprised to see they changed it to have the feeling of a true ending. Yes, it’s a bit open ended (so we might see sequels), but we have a solid amount of closure here.

(Note: I haven’t read the sequels yet; I’ve only read the first graphic novel, and my wife read the first novel, but we have a feeling the endings are going to be drastically different).

==The Bad==

One thing that may grate on people’s nerves: the changes from the book. Yes, there’s the aforementioned ending, a few tweaks to some character’s abilities, but there’s also a few other specifics, specifically in the character of Emma.

Personality-wise, Emma is similar in both versions in her relationships with the other characters. The biggest change is in her powers; in the novel, she was the one who could create/control fire, while Olive was the one who could float. Instead, they swapped their powers but left the personalities (meaning a few events needed an additional character to play out closer to the book), and also added a few new powers (closer to air manipulation). Not horrible, but made me twitch a little bit.

Completely personal preference, but I think that Judi Dench got a crappy cameo. She shows up as another Ymbryne (someone who can turn into a bird and manipulate time; these are the ones who run these schools) named Miss Avocet. In the book, Miss Avocet arrives in an agitated state due to what’s happening, and helps move the plot forward. In the movie, she shows up and is then killed moments later by a minor one-off henchman (highlight the space for the spoiler). Rather crap way to treat the character and an actress of that caliber, in my opinion.

The majority of my complaints will be book vs movie, honestly, but that’s mostly preference. From a movie alone standpoint, there’s still a few issues.

Specifically, parts of the story felt rushed. Going through the film, things were close to the book (outside of minor character changes, like Baron’s ability, the Emma/Olive swap, etc), and events followed along the same way. As soon as you think you hit the end (the book’s end), you realize there’s still more. . .and now they’re trying to condense all of the further character development (include peculiarities that were kept hidden) and the rest of the plot needed for closure (from epic showdown to general resolution) into the last thirty minutes or so. This section felt horribly rushed and slapped together, lacking some of the subtle plots of the books and trying to make something that looks good. While decent, I found it lacking and suffering the problem of most modern stories: endings tend to be rushed and abrupt.

==The Verdict==

I’d have to give Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children three and a half buns.

Rating 3.5 Stars

The movie has quite a bit going for it. Solid acting, great special effects, and an interesting story, but it falls flat with a rushed and abrupt ending that feels bolted on just to offer closure. Still, it does stay relatively true to the book, and it overall a movie that is worth watching.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is currently showing in theatres, and the entire trilogy of books (Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, Hollow City, and Library of Souls) are available from your local or online book retailer.

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