An adaptation of the bestselling novel by American writer Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children gets tepid Tim Burton treatment. This dark 3D fantasy begins in present-day America, where a socially awkward teenager is traumatized when he finds his darling grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp) brutally injured. What makes it worse is that no one believes him when he says he saw a shadowy monster-like figure at the scene of the crime.

Following Abe’s dying instructions, and encouraged by his psychiatrist, Jake (Asa Butterfield) embarks on an adventure to a remote Welsh island to find the mystical orphanage of Abe’s childhood. But Jake finds Miss Peregrine’s Home in ruins, destroyed in an air raid during World War II.

Just as Jake is about to give up hope of ever meeting the children that Abe spoke of, he sees some of the peculiar children. It turns out Miss Peregrine and her special wards survived the attack and live in a 24-hour time loop, replaying the same day for the last 70-odd years. Little do they know that following Jake into their safe haven is the villainous hollow-eyed shape-shifter Barron (Samuel L Jackson), who lives off peculiar people.

Eva Green plays Miss Peregrine, a somewhat Gothic, matronly character who protects peculiar children from monsters. This is a low-calorie X-Men (interestingly, Jane Goldman, who wrote this film, also wrote X-Men: First Class), with Peregrine replacing Xavier as the head of the house for gifted children. Jake no longer feels like the odd one out, as he did back home in Florida, but rather at home with this curious crew whose peculiarities range from turning people to stone with one glance, setting things alight with the touch of a hand, controlling air, having superhuman strength and being able to project their dreams.

While the story is about embracing differences and coming of age, there is a strange Holocaust subtext. Abe tells of how he left Poland to be saved from persecution for being different. And Barron’s monsters are called Hollowgasts or Hollows. There is a passing appearance by Judi Dench and a short but significant one by Rupert Everett. Compensating for Butterfield’s lack of charm is Ella Purnell as Emma, who pined for Abe in the past and finds Jake just as endearing in the present.

Visually sumptuous but dull, this is not the joyously peculiar Burton of Edward Scissorhands or Beetlejuice, but a dialed-down version with flashes of his earlier form.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children releases in theatres on Friday.

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