Twentieth Century Fox           2 hours 7 minutes          PG-13

This is Tim Burton all the way. It’s dark and imaginative. Ransom Riggs, the author of the best selling children’s novel this film is based upon, says Burton kept to his story for the first half of his book and then took off with the amazing visuals and effects Burton is known for to bring it to another level. And he did it with Riggs’ blessing.  

Burton says the book gave him plenty to work with. It includes shape shifting, time travel, powers that are neither super but verging on scary and supernatural. The film is about exclusion and acceptance and presents a positive message especially for teens and tweens. Still, it’s creepy but with amazing visuals. The house in the film is a real house in Belgium that Burton hand-picked. He says that by shooting there, the cast of kids bonded more like a family than they would have working on a sound stage.

This is the story of a young boy named Jake, whose grandfather’s last words lead him on a surreal adventure to solve a mystery about his own peculiarity. It’s based on photographs and the story his grandfather told him for years about his own history.

Traumatized by his grandfather’s murder, Jake gets his therapist, Dr. Golan, (Allison Janney,) to recommend that his father, Frank, (Chris O’Dowd) take Jake to a remote British island to follow his grandfather’s last instructions.  There he finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children where he discovers he belongs. There are children there, each with their own peculiarities which make Jake question if he has his own.

These children’s special talents give Tim Burton plenty of visuals to work with. There is Emma, played by Ella Purnell, who is light as air. She needs lead boots to keep her on the ground and in one of our favorite scenes that also blew us away. Emma takes Jake underwater into to a sunken ship and then blows the water out of it so it can sail again. It’s fantastic. Olive, played by Lauren McCrostie, can set fire to things at will. Enoch, played by Finlay Macmillan, can bring things inanimate objects to life. Fiona is a cute little girl with a head of adorable curls she lifts to eat from her second mouth which is at the back of her head.

Eva Green has worked with Tim Burton before describing his directing as bursting with ideas. As Miss Peregrine, she is the nurturing maternal protector of these children. She keeps them safe by turning back the clock each day so they relive the same 1943 day over and over again. The clock starts again just before their house is bombed in the Nazi Blitzkrieg. Think of this as another kind of Ground Hog Day. Miss Peregrine’s own peculiarity is the ability to turn into a real peregrine falcon. Green says she studied how real falcons move to create her character, including the way she held her head and having long nails or claws. Burton describes her as “Scary Poppins.” She’s not so scary.

But the monsters stalking these kids are. The Hollows are big invisible monsters that go after the children. Samuel L. Jackson is Barron, an evil, power hungry monster of a man looking for immortality. He enlists The Hollows to go after the kids to give him what he needs to become all powerful. You can see the evil in his eyes. Does Jake have a peculiarity that can help his friends survive? No spoiler here.

Jackson is Jackson. He often plays a the big bad guy only this time, he’s got bigger sharper teeth as he relishes the evil he’s about to unleash. Jackson says he’s always admired Burton’s work and loves how his mind works. He says the material in the book was fascinating, and especially the way it dealt with time.

This is a Grimm’s kind of Fairy Tale and perfect for Tim Burton. It’s fanciful, imaginative and sweet, yet very dark, but it keeps you involved. The movie builds into an action filled climax with the ultimate battle between good and evil. Many of Burton’s creations appear to be crafted for young children, but we think they may be too dark for very little ones. However, today’s kids seem able to handle all the scary stuff he packs into his films. And it’s all here.