Hot Take: A messy waste of time and talent.
I really wanted to like The Book of Henry. The cast looked excellent. Director Colin Treverrow is slated to direct Star Wars Episode IX. The trailer had intrigue. It was all seemingly set up for success. Despite all of the signs pointing toward a positive viewing experience, The Book of Henry failed on so many levels and left wondering if there was a better movie somewhere in this mess.
The drama is about the Carpenter family. Susan (Naomi Watts) is the single mother of Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) and Peter (Jacob Tremblay). Henry, the older of the two boys, is extremely smart and takes care of everything for the family. He balances the checkbook, he tells his mom how to behave and takes care of his brother. He’s also extremely intelligent and very articulate. Henry has also observed his neighbor Christina (Maddie Ziegler) being abused by her stepfather (Dean Norris). Susan plays video games (it looks like Call of Duty?) while her son takes care of the household finances. Apparently, they have enough money for mom to quit her job but she inexplicably doesn’t. I guess her irresponsible nature only applies to how she spends her free time? It’s one of the many moments the film goes off the rails. There are others. More details would give some of the key plot points away, though.
The only thing The Book of Henry has going for it is that while it is completely unbelievable, it is almost impossible to look away from. The ridiculous storyline goes so far off the deep end, it’s hard to even put into words. I guess the best way to describe the second half of the film would be to have you imagine if P.S. I Love You was a revenge thriller combined with a family drama. By the end, you’re watching to see if it can ever recover a little of what it had going for it in the first half. (Spoiler alert: IT CAN’T!) Even though there are plenty of competent performances, the ambitiously bad material is too much for even the best thespian to overcome.
So far this year, there’s been movies about mystical creatures attacking the Great Wall of China, a kid born on Mars sneaking to Earth to meet a girl, a dog that comes back to life over and over again and that whole Baywatch debacle yet somehow The Book of Henry might be the most implausible and unbelievable tale of 2017. It’s a shame. This cast deserves better and so does the audience.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Jacob Tremblay
His part is small in comparison to the other kid actor next to him but Tremblay continues to impress in the roles he receives. It’s not Room but he’s one of the few bright spots in the film.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Is Naomi Watts Picking Her Own Roles?
Last year, it was Shut In. This year, it’s The Book of Henry. It’s hard to imagine reading either script and thinking it might be good but Watts saw something in them and chose to take the starring role. I guess there’s the possibility someone has input on her decisions. She might want a second opinion.
- How Much Money Did Henry Make in the Stock Market Again?