Hailed as a return to form for Tim Burton, Miss Peregrine is more like a return to familiar ground; Burton’s obsessions are never buried deep in his work, and it’s not like he was dampening his style down for Big Eyes, Frankenweenie or Dark Shadows. But this YA adaptation of the book by Ransom Riggs has a more confident and epic scope as it relates the story of a young boy Jake (Asa Butterfield) who is won over by the many gifted children of Miss Peregrine (Evan Green). There’s some complex, time-shifting story-telling here, and a strange visual atmosphere involving the British coastal resort of Blackpool. A strong supporting cast including Rupert Everett and Judi Dench don’t get to contribute much, but Green is as good as ever, and Burton seems to have remembered what his audience like to see; channeling his off-kilter style into a compelling narrative.
The late Bob Hoskins finds an ideal foil in Judi Dench for this slight but amusing BBC drama, which takes the war-time action of the Windmill strip-club in London’s Soho as its subject. Stephen Fears has made entrepreneurial duos something of a speciality in films like My Beautiful Launderette, and Mrs Henderson lovingly recreates the milieu in which Vivian Van Damm and Laura Henderson kept their club open despite the bombs falling outside. Popular singer Will Young croons a couple of vintage songs including The Girl In The Little Green Hat, and Christopher Guest has a neat turn as Lord Cromer. Frears handles the nudity with taste; the aim is nostalgia rather than exploitation, and Mrs Henderson is about as genteel a film about stripping as might be imaginable.
Steve Coogan is a fairly significant player in the UK comedy scene, but finding worldwide vehicles for his talents has resulted in minor roles in funny films such as Tropic Thunder and The Other Guys, and leading role misfires in unlovable fare like Hamlet 2 and Around The World in 80 Days. Coogan scored something of a breakthrough with Philomena, adapting (with Jeff Pope) BBC reporter Martin Sixsmith’s The Lost Child of Philomena Lee as an international road movie, playing Sixsmith himself and with Judy Dench as Lee, a mother searching for his missing son. Coogan uses much of the same two-handed patter which made his TV show with Rob Brydon, The Trip, so entertaining, but doesn’t cop out of the criticism of religion, and specifically the Catholic church, that the story demands. Coogan and Dench do well with their roles under the direction of Stephen Frears, and there’s plenty of funny lines and amusing situations (Lee’s fascination with Big Momma’s House) on the way to an unsurprisingly tear-stained finale that casts Sixsmith in a surprisingly unfavourable light.