Screenwriters, producers, and directors always take a risk when they attempt to convert a novel to a big screen film. The fans of the novel tend to nitpick the movie, and often they discourage others from even attempting to see the film. Because of this, when it was announced that “Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” was being adapted into a film, people were understandably worried that it would be another in the long line of mediocre adaptations.
Some people’s worries were assuaged when it was announced that Tim Burton would be responsible for the movie’s direction, but still others felt that he would make the film overly stylized. Thankfully, for the most part all of these fears seem to have been unfounded. The film itself succeeds in much of what it does, and the areas in which it falls short don’t detract from the whole experience.
The performances in the film, for the most part, are truly exceptional. Asa Butterfield does a wonderful job as Jake, the story’s central protagonist. His performance conveys the sense of awkward teenage angst that his character is dealing with throughout the majority of the film. Eva Green’s performance as the titular school’s caretaker, Miss Peregrine, is somewhat stiff, but still enjoyable. The supporting cast are, for the most part, equally enjoyable. The true star performance in the film, however, is Samuel L. Jackson as Barron, the film’s villain. He has an aura of general disinterest in anything and everything going on around him that makes him an instantly enjoyable villain to watch on screen. While the monsters that the children face are scary, Barron’s disconnection from everything around him makes him even more threatening, even if the performance is interspersed with various lighthearted or comedic elements. The film’s largest misstep in casting is a criminal underuse of Judi Dench, who is barely in the film for ten minutes. She says a couple lines and then, as far as the audience is aware, dies immediately. For such a phenomenal actress, she should have been given a much better developed character.
As far as the film’s special effects are concerned, they were a bit of a mixed bag. Some of them were truly spectacular, especially where the Hollows, the film’s monsters, are concerned. Their design is legitimately terrifying, with teeth and tentacles in spades. However, some other effects, specifically relating to one of the children’s powers, leave much to be desired. The CGI in these cases is so shoddy that a viewer can actually pick apart specific frames in the film reel where more work was needed by the artist, and in a film this modern that’s truly disappointing.
From a lighting and cinematography standpoint, the film is phenomenal. The use of light and color, either in bright, flashy hues, or dark subdued ones, depending on the moment, brings a huge amount of emotion to the film. This, more than anywhere else, is where Tim Burton’s direction shines. Throughout his film career one can pick out his exceptional use of light and color, and all of this experience absolutely shows in the film.
The film’s largest flaw is simply that parts of it feel quite rushed. Jake’s introduction to the students, the home, and Miss Peregrine feels far too fast. It would have been incredibly interesting to see and learn more about each individual child, their abilities, and how Jake interacted with them. Instead, most are little more than bystanders, who may interact with the story once throughout the whole film, but generally do just about nothing.
While the novel very well might be better, the film is absolutely worth watching. It’s heartwarming, beautifully filmed, and generally well performed. Many, many worse novel adaptations have been made, and viewers should not avoid the film purely due to concerns about the novel. It should instead be seen as a separate entity that can be quite enjoyable when the viewer’s mind isn’t cluttered with outside opinions. All in all I would give the film a 4/5.