Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Movie Review: "The Book of Henry" (2017)

Director: Colin Trevorrow
Year: 2017
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

A young genius devises a plan to help the girl next door, who he believes is being abused by her stepfather.

"The Book of Henry" is directed by Colin Trevorrow, who is best known as the director of the worldwide box office smash "Jurassic World." It is an original story written by novelist Gregg Hurwitz, and it is the first film he has written. It stars Jaeden Lieberher as the titular Henry, an 11-year-old uber-genius and literal know-it-all. Seriously, this kid is an absolute expert about everything. Joining him is Naomi Watts as his mom Susan, who despite being the mother of a genius seems so clueless, we liken her to the lady on those late night infomercials who can't cook spaghetti.
Susan is precisely all of these people without the guidance of her son Henry.

Susan would much rather be playing video games or drinking with her friend and co-worker Sheila, played by Sarah Silverman, than doing something as important as parenting! Also in the film are Jacob Tremblay, who plays Henry's little brother Peter, Maddie Ziegler, who plays the abused girl next door named Christina, and Dean Norris, who plays Glenn Sickleman, Christina's abusive stepfather. Though Henry has expressed concern for his young neighbor/friend, who exhibits signs of abuse in the form of bruises, inattention at school, and slipping grades, nobody will act on his threats because Glenn is the police commissioner and is a respected member of the community. Now, after the inaction of the adults around him, Henry has devised his own plan to help her, but due to unforeseen circumstances, he may need his mother to complete the task for him.

When we saw all of the marketing for this film, it appeared to be a dark vigilante revenge thriller with an 11-year-old savant-like genius pulling the strings. In reality, this movie seriously doesn't know what it wants to be. It starts out as a light kind of family comedy about a super genius kid who has to take care of his woman-child mother. A major tonal shift happens midway through the movie, turning it into something far more dramatic. Then, once again for good measure, another tonal shift happens, taking it into the more marketed aspects of the film, by showcasing a mother who finally has an epiphany and has to help her son help their neighbor. These drastic changes make the entire movie feel like there is a total lack of focus, and we've not even gotten to the worst of it. On top of all of this, there is the disingenuous nature to "The Book of Henry." The emotional manipulation runs deep and makes the entire thing feel phony and duplicitous. It clumsily tries to juggle multiple tragic topics very unsuccessfully, piling on the drama so high that the original point of the movie is lost completely along the way.

Another huge problem is the character of Henry. He's just too damn perfect. There are a lot of geniuses in the world, and Henry would seem to put them all to shame with his mastery of topics ranging from economics to engineering to medicine and even espionage. He reads one book and knows it all. Watt's Susan, on the other hand, is so incompetent and absentminded, it's like she can't use the bathroom properly without Henry's help. It isn't until the biggest, most major plot point happens than she realizes that she *can* live without him! How convenient! Honestly, the acting is fine, as is the camera work, but the bigger problems add up to more than the sum of the good portions parts. The problem here lies in the story. It is such a contrived mess so loaded with plot holes and schmaltzy cheese that we left the theater looking like this:
Literally us after watching "The Book of Henry"
"The Book of Henry" is one of those films that, the longer it was on screen, the less we liked it. By proxy, the more we reflect upon it, the less we like it. We are absolutely baffled by how this movie got made. It is so poorly written, so bizarrely constructed, and so unattainable in every genre it tries to be, that it really becomes a movie made for no one. Kids can't see it because it's too implicitly violent, adults may be turned off by the fact that a child is ultimately instructing his mother to MURDER ANOTHER ADULT, other adults will be annoyed by the fact that nothing was done to help the little girl out even with obvious signs that she wasn't okay, and the fantasy of it all is too realistic to be just that. It's as if Hurwitz, a well established crime novelist and comic book writer, wrote the script stream of consciousness to combine both of those elements and failed miserably at both, and to top it off, didn't edit it before having it made into a movie. "The Book of Henry" needs to be buried waaaaaaaaaay far down in a deep hole, never to be unearthed again.

My Rating: 2.5/10
BigJ's Ratin: 3/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 24%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!


  1. The poster alone has all the right ingredients for a movie I should love. Its too bad that it turned out to be a turd. Should I still watch for curiosity's sake?

    1. Manny, the cast is great, the poster looks whimsical, it seems like it had all of the right ingredients, but man, it's such a goddamn mess. Watch at your own risk!