Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, the last horse to cross the finish line in the string of YA Fantasy adaptations that everyone thought died out, opens in Florida of all places. We establish that the setting is modern and drab and that our protagonist is lame and unpopular and does not fit into this modern and drab world. Our paint by numbers protagonist is Asa Butterfield, playing a character so uninteresting that I haven't even bothered to remember his name. Asa's performance feels like he's reading off of cue cards, as he utters every line like he's an alien visitor trying to learn what human emotions are. Asa gets a call from his Grandpa (Terence Stamp), who rambles mysteriously about not being able to find his gun. Stamp's senile ravings are still the senile ravings of a world class actor, which makes Asa's flat, phoned-in reaction to them even more egregious.

Asa's boss drives him to his Grandpa's house, where our hero finds his Grandpa mortally wounded in the woods and missing his eyes, to which Asa responds with complete disinterest. Terence mutters something cryptic and kicks the bucket, as Asa sees a terrifying monster slink away. Despite the cliche performance, we've just been set up for an adventure; a mystery.

And then nothing happens. This is the film's fatal flaw: very little actually goes on in it. The film moseys along, introducing us to Asa's underwritten mother and douchey father, showing him go to therapy sessions and discuss his feelings, and letting any tension that had been previously built dissipate. What feels like half the film is taken up in the real world, further reinforcing what we already picked up on in the first scene: Asa is a total loser and feels out of place and we should totally identify with him.

It takes an ungodly amount of utterly useless padding to actually get to the titular home for peculiar children. The thing is, there's absolutely no good reason for this. Asa doesn't have to solve a mystery or find some hidden clue or go jet-setting around the planet to get to said home. He just goes there, on a boat with his douche dad, then is directed there by some locals. And yet this mundane activity, that should have filled two scenes tops, is dragged out over the entire first act.

Getting to the home doesn't cause the plot to pick up any faster, we're just privy to what is far more interesting padding than what made up the last thirty minutes. We meet our ensemble of lovable weirdos, a group of children with "peculiarities," something between superpowers and side show freakisms. The fledgling actors in these roles are particularly well-cast and, unlike Butterfield, seem to care about the quality of the performance that ends up on screen. Standing out is Ella Purnell playing Emma, the lighter than air girl that goes around in lead boots to avoid floating away. Purnell's performance is lively and likeable, offsetting Butterfield's bland disinterest in everything around him. The rest of the children somehow decide that Asa and Emma are in love, despite having only met five minutes earlier, because the plot said so. Asa and Emma have no chemistry whatsoever, but the movie starts operating as if they're meant for each other. This contrivance at least spares us from having to watch any more of an unnecessary romantic subplot than we have to, but the whole thing feels out of place.

The home is run by Miss Peregrine, played by Eva Green - whose performance is understated compared to Burton's usual leading lady but is still out there enough to fit in the movie's weird universe.

The most enjoyable part of the film is the middle, consisting of a series of quirky vignettes showing off the children's various "peculiarities." This is where Burton shows his strengths. These scenes highlight his talent for interesting and macabre designs and bringing together a well-cast group of talented actors (and Butterfield.) However, these scenes move at a snail's pace and contribute nothing to the overall plot (which at the halfway point of the film has hardly been mentioned.) These are peppered with dense pockets of verbal exposition as various characters dump information that will be important later on to the protagonist and audience.

The flick rounds itself off with an underwhelming climax, stuffing the near entirety of the plot into the third act. The ending fails to pay off the terrifying atmosphere that has surrounded what little we've seen of the villains and instead makes them the butt of a series of slapstick jokes, ruining any mystique that the unfiltered exposition had built for them.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is built on a cool, if not entirely original concept (X-Men meets League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with an interesting take on time travel thrown in for good measure), and benefits from a great supporting cast and delightfully creepy production design, but ultimately suffers from poor direction, ludicrously slow pacing and a completely uninterested lead actor.

If the next film in the series is greenlit, I'm hoping to see better writing and direction, more of the titular children and some semblance of a performance from Asa Butterfield. Overall, this film will be exciting for young teenagers and at least watchable for everyone else. While it doesn't do very much, what it does do, it does well - and while there's a lot to complain about, there's also a lot of cool moments. There are some visually stunning and well-executed set pieces (a sequence in a sunken ship and a stop motion fight between dolls stand out), the weird little vignettes are entertaining and the overall concept is cool, but one gets the feeling that this film could have been a lot better than it was.