Question – If you had to get stuck in a time loop, which holiday would you like to be stuck enduring the least? Thanksgiving – if you had to spend the entire day at your least favorite relative’s house? Labor Day – if you were still in school and had to return? Valentine’s Day – after you’d just been dumped? In “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray plays a TV newsman who travels to a quaint town to do a story on that holiday and manages to get himself trapped in a time loop from which he can’t even extricate himself by committing suicide. In “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” (based on the book by Ransom Riggs), a group of children with supertalents and their guardian (Eva Green) seek refuge in a time loop of a single day, which strikes me as ultimately dull but which seems to work out nicely for them. For awhile anyway.
Asa Butterfield plays the young adolescent hero who lives in present day Florida. Since he was little, he has had a close relationship with his grandfather (Terence Stamp), far closer than the one he has with his dad (Chris O’Dowd). His grandfather has always enjoyed telling him stories based on a box of old pictures of children he once knew when he was sent to away to avoid “monsters.” These children have “peculiarities,” i.e. powers very much like the ones the “X-Men” characters have – such as the ability to manipulate fire, control a swarm of bees, and defy gravity which is Ella Pernell’s specialty. Mrs. Peregrine, their guardian herself has the ability to transform into her namesake, which made me jealous because my number one superpower if I had a choice would be flight. Anyway, when the movie opens, Asa returns home from work, only to witness the (apparently) supernaturally caused death of his grandfather. However, he naturally suspects he might be going crazy – and that’s certainly the consensus of his parents who ship him off to a shrink. After some time on the couch dissecting his psyche, Asa persuades his dad to bring him on a trip to the remote Welsh island where the children’s home once was. This is when the story kicks into high gear.
Asa manages to find the ruined home – complete with actual residents, which surprisingly doesn’t make him confident that his sanity is returning. But it turns out to be true – and he manages to find his way inside a time loop – the same one that his grandfather had once been in (yes, I’m sorry, I can’t explain this better). Thanks to the residents and Eva, Asa learns that the loop exists to protect them from enemies – and these are formidable enemies indeed. Led by Samuel L. Jackson, they are a group of eye-eating zombies that can turn into people if they wish to disguise themselves. Samuel apparently needs a steady supply of eyes of “peculiars,” and that’s why he keeps trying to hijack different loops. When he manages to infiltrate Eva’s, he wastes no time wreaking havoc, and it’s up to Asa – who just may be a peculiar himself – to save the day.
I don’t know why this movie wasn’t released closer to Halloween – it’s a perfect kids’ film to see around that time, but I’m sure the makers had their reasons. Never having read the book, I went into this cold, and was pleasantly surprised at how much struck me as original. Fantasy and science fiction are tough genres to come up with original concepts, but a lot of this felt fresh, even if I had no idea where the plot was going for much of the movie. Asa and his friends are appealing, and regardless of whether or not it’s a faithful adaptation, I enjoyed it.