CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – Emma is a girl who is lighter than air, and if she doesn't wear lead shoes, she will simply float away. Bronwyn, who lives in the same house, has the strength of 10 men. Another girl, Fiona, can make plants grow in mere seconds. Then there's Hugh, a boy who has bees living in his stomach, and Horace, who has a magical eyeball that acts as a projector, allowing him to "play" his dreams on the big screen.
Such is the life for the kids in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (PG-13), which opens this weekend and is the latest quirky movie from director Tim Burton, who also gave us Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. But unlike those two PG-rated films, this one delivers enough creepiness and scary moments that parents might want to think twice about taking young children. (More on that in a bit.)
Miss Peregrine's is based on the bestselling book by Ransom Riggs and follows the story of World War II-era kids who live in a children's home because they all have peculiarities due to a recessive gene. Their headmistress is Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), who has the ability to transform into a peregrine falcon.
If all of that wasn't weird enough, they're also stuck in a time loop and seem destined to live forever on one date: Sept. 3, 1943 – the day Nazis bombed the house. Each night, before the bomb crashes into the home, Miss Peregrine turns her watch backwards, reversing time.
The children desire a more normal life, and they find hope when a seemingly ordinary teenage boy -- Jake (Asa Butterfield) – finds the home. His grandfather, who fought in World War II, had told him stories about the house and its occupants.
No doubt, many children will be asking their parents to watch Miss Peregrine's this weekend, but what is the appropriate age for a kid to see this one? Let's take a look ...
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The film has a solid anti-bullying message. We see Jake ridiculed by other teens in the grocery store where he works and by the movie's end we see him "fit in" and become the hero.
There's also a solid message about loving people who are different than us. Scripture tells us that we all have different gifts and talents – a point that is made (in a very weird way) in this Tim Burton flick. (At the beginning of the film Jake is telling us: "Do you ever feel like nothing you do matters?" By the end he is saying: "I'm not ordinary. I can do something no one else can.")
Miss Peregrine's has no sexuality and about five coarse words, but it is a very eerie, dark movie – from the opening scene with spooky music to the final credits. Yes, there are lulls in the film when we're not on the edge of our seats, but those are the exception.
Jake's grandfather is killed by a monster and his eyes gouged out. (We don't see that, but we learn about it and see his grandfather in a field.) In fact, that is the way the monsters (the Hollows, which look real and not cartoonish) thrive ... by eating eyeballs. We even see a big pile of them being eaten. Among the other creepy scenes: two mangled-looking dolls fight to the death; a dead body begins talking; people known as the Wights have solid-white eyes; a dead body is seen; a person's eyes are sucked out.
There aren't many films that are scarier than the trailer, but this is one of them.
Is it Any Good?
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children isn't a bad film, but it isn't a great one, either. The time loop plot is confusing, although readers of the book will have a better grasp of the storyline. I'm sure fans of Tim Burton will enjoy it, too.
The Verdict: Family-Friendly?
This one is far from being a kid-friendly movie, and I'm guessing that lots of nightmares will follow children who do watch it. (Mine are 8 and 4; it's not appropriate for them.) It seems Burton and his crew were aiming Miss Peregrine's toward older children and teens. That sounds about right.
Discussion Questions for Families
For families who watch this one, there are plenty of questions to ask: How do you treat other children or teens who are different? How do your friends treat them? When someone is picked on, what do you do? Is everyone peculiar? Are you ever bullied? Which character, if any, can you relate to?
Entertainment rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of family action/violence and peril. It also has some language.
Sexuality: None. Jake and Emma kiss. We also hear Jake's father say that he was concerned Jake's grandfather was "cheating on our mom."
Language: da—(1) GD (1), oh my g—(1) h--- (2), crap (2). Also: "What the hello."
Violence: Jake and his friends battle monsters, and magical skeletons fight the monsters, too. Little to no blood. Two creepy dolls fight, and one stabs the other's heart with a sharp object. We see dead bodies.