Tim Burton is back — and, regardless of how you feel about the filmmaker's output of late, that's a good thing. While indulging his love of all things weird and wonderful has seen the likes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows annoy rather than endear, the director is still capable of crafting enchanting efforts when he finds just the right level of quirkiness. Sure, they were made decades ago, but Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and his two Batman movies all remain classics for a reason.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children mightn't quite take Burton back to his strange, spirited heights, however it shares much more in common with his earlier work than his more recent fare. Of course it helps that the source material couldn't be a better fit. Boasting a title that champions its oddness, a story filled with outsider characters embracing their individual traits, and an unusual journey through both dark and delightful territory, the first book in the three-strong young adult series by author Ransom Riggs feels like it was destined to end up in Burton's hands.
16-year-old Jake (Asa Butterfield) has heard about Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and her unusual abode from his doting grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp) ever since he can remember — although as he grew up, he stopped believing that the fantastical tales were true. Then tragedy strikes, leaving Jake with many questions — which a trip to Wales to seek out the house from his childhood stories just might be able to answer. There, with the help of the lighter-than-air Emma (Ella Purnell), the fire-starting Olive (Lauren McCrostie), the necromantic Enoch (Finlay MacMillan) and many more, Jake discovers the other side of his reality.
What would happen if Burton made a mashup of X-Men, Harry Potter and The Matrix? Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, that's what. In fact, screenwriter Jane Goldman worked on X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past, as well as Kingsman: The Secret Service. Once the 127-minute-long movie moves past its dragging, world-building first half, the director and scribe prove a well-matched pair, blending both eccentricity and adventure to mostly charming effect. And while the film follows a very familiar path and ponders recognisable themes, it does so with an ideal dose of Burton's distinctive sensibilities.
Think visions of reanimated critters, gas mask-wearing kids, sunken ships and stalking monsters – to name but a few of the movie's more memorable sights. Crucially, however, the striking imagery doesn't overpower the narrative. Instead, it helps add depth and texture, and immerses viewers in the story. Cast-wise, the youthful talent proves uniformly up to the task, although if there's ever an actor that can convey Burton's bewitching brand, it's Green. Move over, Johnny Depp, there's a new muse in town.