Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

Director: Tim Burton (2016) BBFC cert: 12A

Step inside the latest dark fantasy from the macabre mind of Tim Burton. Based on the best selling novel by Ransom Riggs, the director’s gothic sensibility has been fused with the superhero stylings of X-Men screenwriter Jane Goldman to create a clanking automaton of insufficient heart or electric thrills.

Whether this is an exhausted creative reaching for his reliable stock in trade ideas to get the job done or a potentially career fatal exercise in barrel scraping, Miss Peregrine’s Home makes for a great game of Tim Burton bingo.

There is a young lonely outsider of estranged parents, a kindly grandfather figure, suburbia is given its regular beating, pastel shades denote danger and sports are used as shorthand for idiocy, Visually there is elaborate topiary in the shape of dinosaurs, a scissor handed puppet is given life and a circus ring features in the finale. House!

The Birds (1963), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Time Bandits (1981) and Brigadoon (1954) are among the many other films drawn upon for inspiration.

The plot is not so far away from any X-Men movie, honestly, pick any one you want. An outsider discovers a hidden school for specially gifted children ran by a powerful mentor. Nazi experiments in genetics are hinted at the cause of the ‘peculiars’ special powers.

Despite antagonism from some pupils he eventually joins forces in defending the school against their enemies. Along the way hidden talents are discovered and lessons of reaching ones full potential are received. The End.

Talented  and likeable Brit Asa Butterfield plays Jake, a modern 16-year old American teenager who visits Wales and discovers a time loop where it’s still 1943. Wales is a modern and forward looking country so I’ll not be making any cheap gags here. Despite being replaced on screen by Cornwall, Wales is made to look magical.

Hidden inside the time loop is Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, where the never ageing pupils live the same day over again. Each child has their own peculiarity such as invisibility, great strength or pyrokinesis. Ella Purnell plays the angelic Emma who has to wear lead boots to stop her floating away.

Eva Green gives a wonderfully eccentric turn as the pipe smoking housemistress Miss Peregrine, a glamorous combination of Mary Poppins and Morticia Adams. As well as creating the time loop to protect her young charges from their fearful enemies, she can transform into a peregrine falcon and is a deadly shot with a crossbow.

Her home is only one of may such time protected hideaways and all are threatened by The Hollows, monsters lead by the evil Mr. Barron. With sharklike teeth and a white wig, Samuel L. Jackson matches Green’s performance and the film is energised by his belated appearance.

A bevy of English actors add their name to the film poster. Dame Judi Dench flies through her cameo, Rupert Everett sports binoculars and an alarming accent. Terence Stamp and Chris O’Dowd play Jake’s grandfather and father.

There’s plenty of handsomely designed spectacle adorned with a dash of romance and odd moments of black humour. Mike Higham provides the unmemorable score and the familiar strains of Burtons’ usual collaborator Danny Elfman, are missed.

But the big mystery is who this film is aimed at. Its eye eating villains are far too macabre for little ones and the sub-superhero adventure is too gentle for teens.

And true to its lengthy title, the storytelling is caged and never soars.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Director: Matthew Vaughn (2015)

This glossy smug spy spoof lacks much spark or charm, it’s as flat and laboured as the later Roger Moore Bond movies it offers homage to.

The Kingsmen are an aristocratic, super-rich secret spy agency who operate without any pesky political oversight or accountability.

They’re an exclusive and aspirational club for the Bullingdon boys only with nattier outfits. Putting great stock by personal grooming, they’re based in a Tailor’s shop in Savile Row.

Head of the outfitters is Michael Caine who played spy Harry Palmer. All the agents sport Palmer’s famous wide brimmed specs because the film can’t resist its little jokes. It also references The Man From UNCLE and The Men In Black.

Brolly carrying agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) sees the opportunity to atone for the death of a colleague by putting forward his son Eggsy (Taron Egerton) for recruitment.

Only he’s turned out to be a bit of baseball cap wearing chav and so must be properly attired, trained in espionage and taught to use violence to subjugate the working classes.

Although the script plays lip-service to meritocracy, Eggsy is chosen due to being of good stock and all the other potential recruits are public school types. The only female recruit of note is Roxy (Sophie Cookson) and she of course is a gorgeous lesbian.

Meanwhile billionaire Richmond Valentino (a lisping Samuel L. Jackson) is plotting to create a new world order involving the murder of millions using micro-chips.

Politicians can’t be trusted to hang on to their integrity in the face of Valentino’s money, though a supple-buttocked Scandinavian Princess holds firm. Because she’s royal you see.

Valentino is assisted by a decorative blade-footed assassin called Gazelle (Sofia Boutella). Having demonstrated her ability early doors, she’s mostly there to look pretty.

Poison pens, explosive cigarette lighters, jet packs and underground bases add to the retro atmosphere of the 1970’s sexual politics.

In the absence of decent jokes, obscenities are used as punchlines to scenes, the action set pieces are all too familiar and aside from a colourful moment of pomp and circumstance, there’s little that will raise an eyebrow.

Based on comic book by Mark Millar who also wrote the Vaughn directed Kick Ass, it’s the fifth script collaboration between Vaughn and Jane Goldman (Stardust, Kick Ass, X-Men: First Class, The Debt).

It’s most similar in tone but lacks the fresh energy and originality of the uproariously violent and funny Kick Ass.

Roger Moore single-handedly mocked his own image with far more grace, talent, charm and wit than is mustered here. Check out North Sea Hijack for a rather better service.

★★☆☆☆