I kept wanting to call this movie “… Home for Imaginary Children” because my brain kept trying to mix the title up with Cartoon Network’s “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends”. But honestly, if that’s what they named this movie, nothing would be any different aside from them losing their lame tagline “Stay Peculiar”. Yawn.
As for the movie itself, I wasn’t holding my breath for it to be any good; I had two separate friends who were major fans of the book, and they both hated the movie. But I have never read the book, so I thought maybe I could approach the movie with a bit more objectivity.
And even then, I thought this movie was obnoxious.
The main character in this movie is a boy named Jake, and he’s oh so misunderstood and depressed, and all the happy people around him simply can not understand his perpetual state of angst. The first fifteen minutes of this movie was poorly delivered, poorly paced exposition.
The young man who plays him, Asa Butterfield was so bad at delivering his lines that I often mistook him as a walking cutting board that was depressed all the time. I know this kid has been in some relatively well-known movies (none of which I’ve seen), so I may try to watch them to see if Butterfield is always bad at acting, or if Tim Burton was particularly bad at directing him.
However, once Jake finally finds Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peclulul…. he trades in his bad acting for decent acting, and his character trades in his awkwardness and angst and basically becomes stereotypical-uncharacterized-protagonist-number-5,143. As soon as Burton gets to the people he really cares about (the freaks), then Jake essentially loses all definable personality traits.
All of the kids have pretty interesting powers, and some even have enough character traits to not be boring. You have the girl who is so light that she floats if not for her massive metal boots, the girl who touches things and sets them on fire, a little girl who has a humorous amount of super strength, a boy who has bees living in him, that boy who can bring things to life by putting hearts in them (who also hates Jake because reasons), etc.
However, despite the fact that I found all of these fascinating, I could tell that Burton and his crew were unable to keep all of these powers in mind all the time, because I was constantly asking why certain things were and were not happening in the story.
This issue was particularly irritating with Miss Peregrine herself, who is so in tune with time that she can predict when things will and will not happen. Like she predicted that Jake would be coming to her place and sent some children after him. <Spoiler> She also predicted that Jake’s grandfather died by a massive amount of probability and time deductions </Spoiler>
But since Peregrine is basically set up as this omnipotent being, it made me wonder why she couldn’t predict certain outcomes whenever the inevitable conflicts happen.
Eva Green as Peregrine is portrayed as this woman who’s witty and funny and quirky and good Lord it was all so forced. I was able to take her the most seriously when she’s actually trying to be serious, because she did not sell the quirkiness of her character well at all.
Something that I thought about in the middle of the movie was what one of my friends who hated MPHFPC described it as: “Filled with missed opportunities”.
I completely agree. So many nonsensical things happen in order to further the plot or to impress the audience with some sort of special effects. So many cool and interesting ideas that I thought about constantly seemed to be overlooked for reasons that I couldn’t comprehend.
Samuel L. Jackson plays the villain, and he’s so wretchedly cartoony that I never ever mistook him as an actual threat. He’s successful whenever the movie pretends he’s menacing, and every single other time, his plans get foiled and he unleashes this cheesy “D’OH!” phrase as if he’s this silly uncle playing obvious magic tricks on the kids rather than trying to eat their eyeballs out.
He and the rest of the villains in this movie are never truly explored in regards to their powers; if they did decide to explore their powers, then the movie would have actually had to put in the effort to have our protagonists actually WORK for their solutions, and we can’t have that, can we?
There may be some of you wondering what do I mean by plot conveniences, missed opportunities, etc. Well, I’ll be happy to list them all out for you, but it’s going to spoil pretty much the entire movie, so here’s a spoiler warning. Everything after the woman with the crossbow but before the girl holding the squirrel is a spoiler.
- If no one can enter a day-loop unless they’re “peculiar”, and Jake went through Peregrine’s day-loop, why does every single person, including Peregrine, act and speak as though Jake’s not “peculiar” and no one acknowledges his peculiarity until the blonde spells it out for him?
- If Jake’s power is that he can see the invisible monsters, what exactly is so different about the invisible boy? Why is Jake’s power limited to the invisible boy but not the scary monsters?
- WHY IS THE INVISIBLE BOY CONSTANTLY NAKED?! Especially during the dinner table scene? What was the point?
- Why did the bee boy have to be reminded to put his bee mask on while eating? After all they’ve been living the same day every day for the past hundred years.
- If Miss Peregrine was able to predict that Jake would come to see them, and she was able to predict his grandpa’s death, then why wasn’t she able to deduce that Jake would bring Sam L Jackson back with him the next time he comes back and properly prepare?
- Why does the invisible monster make quick work of killing Judi Dench and then grabs the grumpy boy and just messes with him for over ninety seconds when the grumpy boy, or anyone else for that matter, isn’t doing anything to prevent him?
- Why wasn’t the monster in the house immediately killed in one of the following ways:
- Jake could have splashed some sort of paint on him, making him an easy target.
- The plant girl could have used the seeds to wrap him up THEN. In fact, the seeds could have wrapped around it and then the paint wouldn’t have been necessary!
- They could have used the fire girl as bait, and all she’d have to do is pat the monster once or twice and he’d be set on fire.
- The little hercules girl could have thrown something at him.
- Bees, use the damn bees. The monster is huge and the probability of stinging is high.
- The two masked kids should have opened their masks and turn him to stone.
- I’M READY TO TAKE CARE OF THE KIDS, MISS PEREGRINE. I’D DO A LOT BETTER THAN YOU EVER COULD.
- How in the world did the blonde get her heavy boots back after they were left behind at the home when the bomb exploded it (and by the way, why did the massive German bomb produce such a tiny explosion?)?
- Why does Sam L Jackson not kill Jake when he had the chance and instead transforms into him to try to get his friends to shoot him? After all, if he uses his axe hand, Jake’s chances of dying are 100%, but if he gets Jake’s friends to kill him, then Jake’s chances of dying are 50% at best.
- Why does killing Sam L Jackson mean that his grandfather is no longer dead (because Jackson killed him), but it doesn’t mean that Jake will never have gone on this journey considering his grandfather’s death prompted this journey int he first place?
- Why does the blonde girl hurriedly push Jake into going back to see his grandpa when she clearly wants to be with him? And then, why does she get so excited to see him again when Jake decides to go back to her once his grandpa tell him to, you know, aside from dramatic effect?
- Why didn’t Peregrine and the rest of the omnipotent time god birds stay and help Jake fight Sam L Jackson? Why did they all just leave him to die?
- Why was Peregrine not able to go back to the children in the end? Because her arm was injured…? She had to wait for her arm to heal? What the hell is even the point of that?
This movie does have some fun and quirky elements that work, and there is a fight scene that, while convenient and eventually suspense-free, was fun to watch. Otherwise, Tim Burton’s lack of attention to detail really shows in this movie. Jake isn’t good in this movie, Peregrine isn’t very good in this movie, and Sam L Jackson is more of a caricature than a fiend. This is not even to mention the movie is chock-full of plot conveniences and nonsense. I’m sure that children that haven’t read the book will find this movie extremely entertaining (and maybe slightly scary), but anyone who gets annoyed at plot conveniences should row their boat far away from Peregrine.