Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Note: Like most of my movie reviews, this one is intended for readers of the source material and analyzes the movie as an adaptation rather than an independent work. You can read my B grade review of the novel here.
After the death of his grandfather, Jake goes looking for the children’s home that was the center of his many fanciful bedtime stories, in the hope of separating fact from fiction. Spoiler alert (not really): It’s all fact.
The movie recognizes the need to bring the story to the titular home for peculiar children sometime before the halfway point, and to make the most of the children’s dynamic superpowers.
It does this at the cost of making any sense whatsoever.
The children’s freedom to leave the shelter of their loop of repeating time without aging to death is reduced from several hours in the book to a few minutes as explained in the movie, and yet the long, disjointed climactic sequence takes place completely outside the loop, including travel across great distances, without any of the children showing any adverse effects. Enoch’s power over life and death is primarily used to make flashy skeleton armies, rather than to solve any mysteries, leaving the island’s one human murder victim completely unmentioned after his initial discovery.
Jake’s family’s fortune is never mentioned, making a psychiatrist’s suggestion that a drugstore stock boy travel to Wales as part of his therapy seem laughably out of touch, and everything is neatly fixed in the end, even things that really shouldn’t be, by thoroughly unexplained time travel.
The dysfunctional relationship between grandfather, father, and son, the most compellingly developed aspect of the book, is boiled down to a few scenes of painfully stilted, generic clichés, as is everything else that can be. While the book struggles somewhat to assert its differences from the many teen and middle-grade low fantasies like it, the movie seems to try actively to avoid any possibility of distinctiveness, shoehorning in an unnecessary love triangle and adding plenty of talk of chosen-one destiny, where the theme of the original emphasized personal choice.
The cosmetic swap of Emma and Olive’s peculiarities does allow for a more magical scene in the sunken ship, but has the unfortunate effect of giving the most prominent female character the less destructive, more feminine power set, causing her to spend long stretches of the movie literally on a leash. It’s hard to say whether the swap draws more attention to the movie’s lack of regard for the book, or to the flatness of Emma’s character and the unimportance of the children’s peculiarities in the book in the first place, when she, as the most important peculiar child, can have her peculiarity completely changed with little to no effect on the plot.
Altogether a poor adaptation of a pretty okay book, and a waste of some excellent actors.
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