From the first few scenes of Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, it’s pretty clear that the film won’t be a 100% faithful adaptation of the book. Therefore, if you’re someone who read and enjoyed the book, which I am, you must decide quickly – do you constantly compare the film to the source material or do you try to enjoy it as a separate piece of work. I’d suggest the latter.
Unfortunately for me, it took about half the movie to get to that place. Luckily for me, once I did, I really enjoyed the film.
What Was the Good and the Less Good?
The Good Thing That Surprised Me -Changing the powers of Olive and Emma.
I didn’t think I would like this but I did. In the film, it fit into the modified storyline. In fact, I almost found myself wishing this was done in the book. There were other major character changes as well. In general, I wasn’t put off by them and typically, after that initial – hey that’s not how that went in the book – reaction, it started to make sense.
Biggest Disappointment -Not enough Tim Burton-ness.
I’ve loved Tim Burton since he won my heart with Beetlejuice. He changed the way I viewed love stories with Edward Scissorhands. He created an iconic Batman (and Joker). He’s made amazing musicals (Sweeney Todd). And he did all of this with a signature dark, yet somehow playfully unique style. I wanted to see more Tim Burton in this film. It felt lacking in the fantastical imagery and whimsical spirit that pervades even his darkest films. I caught glimpses of it here and there – the Hallows, the snowball scene, for example. But, there just wasn’t enough for me.
What About the Film Overall?
Here, I think judgement of the film really depends on the lens with which you view it.
Lens 1: Compared to the Book
One of thing things I loved about the book was that it felt unpolished. I’ve read so many over-plucked books where content has been whittled down to predictable perfection. However, Miss Peregrine had a novel (no pun intended) writing style. It felt peculiar, like the children in the book. The movie, on the other hand, is slick, well edited and changes the storyline to have a seamless movie arc. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, if I’m rating it on how well it kept to the tone of the source material, I’d have to say it didn’t. It just wasn’t “weird’ enough, which is funny given it’s a Tim Burton film.
Lens #2: Movie on Its Own – forget the source material
Viewed in this way, the movie works quite well. The characters are interesting, the plot is exciting. I think it does a laudable job of explaining some rather complicated backstory. The movie made some significant changes. However, it still captured the important themes of otherness and isolation. Again, once I took off my book lens, all the differences seemed to make sense. In fact, sometimes it’s smarter to break with the source material when making a movie. Smart movie-makers know when to do this and in this case, it may have been a smart move.
What’s the Final Grade?
Since I chose #2, my final grade for this movie is a solid B. Putting aside the source material, I found the movie engaging, the characters interesting and well-acted and the ending very exciting. If you haven’t read the book, you’ll probably enjoy the movie. If you have read the book and can put aside your desire for it to faithfully capture everything you loved about the novel, then you’ll like it as well. If you can’t do that, then maybe wait until it’s out on video.