Ages 11 and under
Male and Female
Since 2011, it has been the modern-day equivalent of Mary Poppins, telling a twisted story of a magical nanny who protects children from the horrors of the outside world. Now, Tim Burton teams up with screenwriter Jane Goldman to adapt Ransom Riggs’ novel to the big screen. The result? Well, I hate to say this: I really wanted to like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, but just couldn’t. When your movie requires lots of frightening imagery unsuitable to the nine-year-old’s innocent mind, then this type of story should remain on paper.
The opening credits already warn us of the type of movie we are about to watch: newspaper clippings are shown of the peculiar children, including one little girl with super strength and two twins who dress like clowns. Everything that follows from here is an occasional terrifying scene held together by scenes that add little enjoyment or emotion.
This story revolves around Jake, played by Asa Butterfield (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Hugo), a teenage boy as dull and pathetic as his on-screen believability. He wants to be an explorer, but is too chicken. Yes, I know. It sounds just like every other child protagonist ever doesn’t it? His closest relationship in his Florida home is his dementia-struck grandfather, who told stories to him growing up about these peculiar children. It’s the only type of love he can get, as his father is too much of a jerk to pay any attention to his son, not like I cared about any of these characters.
But then he and his father are forced onto a trip to a Welsh island where Miss Peregrine is said to house these peculiar children. Basically it starts when a mysterious creature gouges out grandpa’s eyes. It’s a terrifying sight, but it’s not like the situation itself is heart-stopping or anything.
Anyway, they get to the island, which does in fact feel appropriately cold with its cool colors and striking backlights, thanks to cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (Amélie, Inside Llewyn Davis). On this island, he time travels by cave back to 1943 when these peculiar children were still living in the currently abandoned mansion run by Miss Peregrine. From here, you’d expect the movie to finally get started with the mystifying peculiarity promised in the trailer. Well, it does for the first fifteen minutes when we are introduced to the kids, but everything else after that just falls under the usual kid’s movie format that is dumbed down too much for teens and adults to handle. Which leads into my next complaint...
...Which is the unfortunate fate of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children to receive a PG-13 rating despite its clear targeting towards anyone under the age of 11. I would in no way call this suitable for kids, as the images of children with teeth at the back of their head and putting hearts into inanimate objects to bring them to life are the product of nightmares. But it’s not just that, but an invisible boy walks around naked, and there is plenty of talk of Nazi Germany sending bombs onto the island; definitely not suitable subjects for children!
In fact, I don’t know of anyone who will enjoy this film, as the quality of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children otherwise is below average. None of the actors stand out in any way, the CGI is worse than Suicide Squad, and the children are not given anywhere near the amount of screentime they deserve.
I also have a gripe against the way the main problems in this movie are solved. Basically, by the third act, the kids get themselves to the villain’s hideaway in the most unbelievable way that feels uncomfortably similar to Battlefield Earth. Then after they get to the island, believe it or not, their solution to fighting the bad guys involves throwing junk at them as if we’re watching Home Alone 6. I’m sorry, but when your climax involves a “kids outsmart the grown-ups“ concept like that, you’re asking for trouble.
If this movie was suitable for anybody, I’d say it is best for teenagers after they got high off of the hottest pot they could cook up, so that they can watch the disturbing images of bad actors in peculiar situations with laughs all around. It sounds a bit harsh to say, but after looking at the marketing of this film and the rating it received from the MPAA, that’s the truth.
It’s no secret that kids are easily rattled. At age two, kids are afraid of being left alone. At age five, kids are afraid of what’s under the bed. At age eight, kids are afraid of their first day of school. At age twelve, kids are afraid of getting zits on their face. So there’s nothing more unsettling in the media when a film marketed towards kids features intentionally frightening images. It’s a complex study of psychology: children’s minds are developed in a certain way by how old they are, and it means they are more easily frightened by those who are older. This movie in particular probably necessitated the more unsettling images, but in the way that it was marketed, the two clash disastrously with one another.
I myself remember getting scared of popping balloons, ventriloquist dummies and marionette puppets, but for some reason it took a lot to get me rattled by something I saw on TV (not even the pink elephants in Dumbo scared me- and that’s coming from me as a four-year-old). But in the case of other kids with autism, there are plenty of things that could scare them easily, and these fears are far more sensitive than kids without autism.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #22: Their Senses are Much More Sensitive.
When I was in kindergarten, and on Halloween my class went on a field trip to a farm in Carnation, Washington. All seemed well here: there was a straw maze, pumpkin picking, farm animals, and even a puppet show. Yet the last thing mentioned was what worried me the most. I already wasn’t a fan of puppets, marionettes to be specific, and I was sort of hoping that this puppet show described would be full of hand puppets. Alas, it was not. Most of the puppets did not rattle me at all, in fact some I thought were quite fun. But there was one puppet that shocked me entirely, and ruined the entire field trip for me.
It was a marionette of a pig dressed as a farmer; it had large bulging eyes that blinked and sung in a high-pitched voice that clearly did not come out of the puppeteer’s lips. Ever since I saw that horrifying swine of a monstrosity, I was for the rest of the day afraid that the puppet would pop out at me and sing at me in that horrific voice. Then for the next several years I had a fear of pigs- and a stronger fear of marionette puppets. Even hearing their names mentioned shook me until I couldn’t speak.
Today, I have no apparent fear of puppets, and I now think that pigs are really cute. But I still have plenty of other fears that relate more to my sensory issues: jump scares, people yelling in my presence, and sudden loud noises.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #40: Surprises Aren’t Such a Good Idea.
It’s a very common trait of autism to be sensitive to noise, especially when they are loud, sudden, and unexpected. I had this fear since the very beginning. It started with balloons popping, and now it’s progressed to people raising their tone to me. You may think that it helps in disciplining people so that they won’t forget your words, and for most people it works, but for people on the spectrum, it can do more harm than good.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #60: Raising Your Voice Exacerbates the Problem.
No parent wants their kids to watch something in a movie or TV show that will scare them, so let’s do the same to not let children with autism get rattled for life by something that they are insufferably sensitive to. With that said, here are good things to keep in mind:
- If you are autistic yourself and get easily rattled by things similar to what I mentioned, to help you deal with these fears, always carry something with you of familiarity that you know always brings you comfort.
- For parents of autistic children: do not every raise your tone as a mode of discipline. They are super sensitive to it and they will remember it for the rest of their lives, and not in the way you want them to.
- Also, be careful about what you show your kids. Movies like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children are very deceptive in their marketing, so remain up-to-date on a parent’s guide to know what your kids would be watching. Here’s a good site for your reference.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Common Sense Media. Web. <https://www.commonsensemedia.org/>.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. 20th Century Fox. Web. <http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children>.