The creepy vintage photos that pepper Ransom Riggs’ original Miss Peregrine novel look like relics from Tim Burton’s attic, so it’s fitting that the master of macabre is shepherding Riggs’ book to the big screen. Asa Butterfield stars as Jake, a typical teenage Floridian who’s grown up on his grandfather’s tales of a mysterious island orphanage and its odd inhabitants. It isn’t until he travels there himself that he learns that his grandpa’s friends and their caretaker Miss Peregrine (a delightful Eva Green) are not only real but still alive, locked in a time loop where it’s perpetually 1943. Why? They’re hiding from Hollows, horrifying tentacled creatures who hunt “peculiar” children in a quest for immortality. Samuel L. Jackson leads the Hollows with scenery-chewing gusto, making them seem more silly than scary. Still, it’s fun to watch him slurp down a pile of eyeballs and fume about the indignity of visiting Florida.
Miss Peregrine has all the visual hallmarks of your classic Burton—a child with teeth on the back of her head, a girl who wears lead shoes to keep from floating away (Ella Purnell, swapping powers with another character from the book). But the film chooses style over substance, emphasizing how cool the children’s powers are without fleshing them out as full characters. To compete with Burton’s best, his heroic weirdos need a little more heart—and the monsters need sharper teeth. B–