Critics' Pick

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (PG-13)

SciFi/Fantasy 126 min. September 30, 2016
By Chris Packham
The conventional wisdom about early-career Tim Burton is that he was an imaginative visual stylist but not a great storyteller. But it's an undeniable fact that over his four-decade career, Burton has created fantastic characters who are now permanent installations in the popular imagination -- no other filmmaker would have conceived the likes of Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Jack Nicholson's Joker, Johnny Depp's Ed Wood. In this Burton is brilliant, and it's a credit to his good taste that those roles are also outstanding collaborations with their respective actors.

Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) is another, a magical being who can transform into a falcon and create loops in time, within which she can eternally relive the same day in 1943 -- hiding inside it in order to protect her "peculiars," children born with physical and supernatural abilities for which society has rejected them, which is generally how young-adult fiction conceptualizes superpowers. Green creates a flinty, authoritarian Mary Poppins, a hypercompetent figure surrounded by clocks who insists on strict punctuality -- at 9:00 p.m. each night, a Nazi bomb destroys the school, Groundhog Day–style, so the kids must go outside. Though the cast includes a large number of peculiar children, Burton stamps each one with individual quirks, wardrobes and Burton-y silhouettes. Jake, the film's most important peculiar, is also its dullest. But the film mostly makes up for him with some great moments: Emma's resurfacing of a long-sunk luxury ocean liner; the marshalling of an army of furious skeletons for a battle with monsters; almost everything that Eva Green says and does.
Tim Burton Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O'Dowd, Ella Purnell, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson Jane Goldman, Ransom Riggs Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping 20th Century Fox

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