Based on the first book in the bestselling series by Ransom Riggs (strong name), this is basically X-Men: First Class — if the mutants were more like the twins from The Shining. The story follows a teenage boy who tracks down the infamous Miss Peregrine’s Home (i.e. Charles Xavier’s School For Gifted Weirdos), the place where his grandfather grew up. Burton’s latest muse, Eva Green, plays Miss Peregrine, and Samuel L. Jackson leads the gang of half-human creatures who prey on the peculiars. Is it worth interrupting your goth kid’s Hot Topic shopping trip to hit the theater? Here’s what the critics are saying to help you decide.
For Kids: The peculiars’ powers are pretty cool. Yeah, there are the usual suspects like flight and invisibility. But there’s also more unusual abilities — like projecting dreams out of their eyeballs. “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children has all the making of a super franchise — the call of destiny, the making of heroes and the embrace of kinship,” writes Mark Kennedy for the Associated Press. “Plus, of course, coming to terms with your inner freak.” But, like a lot of Tim Burton movies, critics think there’s more style over substance. “You almost wish it was a hang-out movie; that the story didn’t revolve around a token Young Adult fiction nice guy happening upon their funky corner of the world,” Matt Prigge writes for Metro. And if your pre-teen has read the books already, they might get a little bored during the moments of backstory exposition.
For You: Critics agree that Burton’s latest effort isn’t perfect, and it tries to force a lot of plot into an adult-sized 2 plus hours. But, it’s sufficiently good enough to restore your faith in the director. “Burton, though his output lately has been bumpy (let’s all agree to forget about Dark Shadows, shall we?), is one of those rare filmmakers with a clear, distinctive style, and it’s well suited to this material,” writes Moira MacDonald of the Seattle Times. But it doesn’t quite have that mix of metaphorical and anatomical heart and like a 90s Burton classic. Devan Coggan of Entertainment Weekly says that “To compete with Burton’s best, his heroic weirdos need a little more heart, and the monsters need sharper teeth.” Or hands that are scissors.
Common Sense’s Take: Common Sense Media is the leading nonprofit source for helping parents make movie and TV choices for their kids. First and foremost, they point out that there’s a lot of death in this movie. Murdered grandpas, eyeball-eating monsters, and spoiler alert — a main character turning up dead and bloodied on the ground. If your kid doesn’t fear the Reaper (or you’re not afraid of a conversation about it) the flick does a fine job getting across the message that being “different” can be a really special thing. Especially if you can fly.
Bottom Line: If your 12-year-old is a stickler for source material, they might be bummed the story doesn’t always match up with the book. It’s also more of an action movie than the full-on macabre Tim Burton fans are used to. But, most top critics seem to think it’s a solid YA effort and about 100 times more watchable than Vampire Academy.
Running Time: 127 minutes
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