sat 02/07/2022

The Book of Henry review - staggeringly awful | reviews, news & interviews

The Book of Henry review - staggeringly awful

The Book of Henry review - staggeringly awful

Dazzlingly inept movie starring Naomi Watts that doesn't know what genre it belongs in

Playing happy families: Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay and Naomi Watts

It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen a movie as staggeringly awful as The Book of Henry. If it was just a touch more shrill it could have qualified as a so-bad-it’s-good camp classic, but unfortunately it teeters this side of tasteful in order to keep its 12 rating. How any studio executive ever read Gregg Hurwitz’s script and thought this was a viable scenario is truly baffling. What terrible atonement for sins in a past life led Naomi Watts to take the lead is another mystery, as is the question of how director Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) is going to live this debacle down and go on to helm the next Star Wars.

Jaeden Lieberher plays Henry, an 11-year-old genius who ramps up the value of his waitress mother’s stock portfolio from a phone box. He goes to a regular school despite his stellar IQ because, as he says, "It’s better for my psycho social development for me to interact with my peer group in a normal school environment." He has no father but does share his bedroom with a cute little brother (Jacob Tremblay from Room – wasted here). Henry’s not just brilliant at finances and uttering homilies in class, he’s good with his hands too – he’s singlehandedly built a huge Heath Robinson-esque den in the wood near their home. His ditzy mother Susan (Watts), is happy to have her finances run by her son as she’s addicted to videogames. She’s not pure slacker mom though - she dreams of writing a children’s book between shifts at the local diner and is really good at hugging.The Book of HenrySusan's workmate/bestie is played by Sara Silverman, her bosom tormented by a pushup bra and smothered in tattoos. She has a tendency to flirt with Henry. Again, one wonders what induced an intelligent actor to take this part? The movie then mutates from quirky family comedy to psychodrama, Suffering silently in the house next door is Henry’s classmate Christina, a ‘tween beauty played by Maddie Ziegler (pictured above) who is most famous from regular appearances in the TV hit Dance Moms and a very dodgy Sia video with Shia LaBoeuf). Only Henry knows Christina's dark secret; she is being abused by her wicked stepfather (Dean Norris from Breaking Bad) who just happens to be the local chief of police so no one believes Henry when he sounds the alert…

The Book of Henry then switches genres again to become a disease-of-the-week weepie; it turns out the financial whizzkid is also an expert neurologist who knows which brain tumours are untreatable. At this point my regular 13-year-old movie companion muttered: "It’s now gotten really stupid that he is so clever". Never mind grief-stricken mom, there’s a toweringly hunky doctor (Lee Pace) waiting to cheer her up and Tremblay finally gets a chance to be cute in the school talent show.

The movie makes its final screeching handbrake turn, swerving from weepie to thriller as Susan turns vigilante avenger on behalf of Christina. Luckily, Henry has left detailed instructions (the book of the title) on how to talk tough and illegally buy a gun. He's also available on tape to talk his mom through target practice. Trevorrow cross-cuts between Susan and evil stepdad stalking each other through scary dark woods and the cloying talent show. In a final nonsensical twist, Christina's interpretative dance solo makes the scales fall from the headteacher’s eyes about the abuse allegations - she doesn't just win the talent contest, she gets a new family. By the end of the film, nearly everyone lives happily ever after – except us. The 13-year-old and I would quite like a refund on the 105 minutes we wasted on The Book of Henry. Please don’t make the same mistake.

 @saskiabaron

Overleaf: watch the official trailer for The Book of Henry

It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen a movie as staggeringly awful as The Book of Henry. If it was just a touch more shrill it could have qualified as a so-bad-it’s-good camp classic, but unfortunately it teeters this side of tasteful in order to keep its 12 rating. How any studio executive ever read Gregg Hurwitz’s script and thought this was a viable scenario is truly baffling. What terrible atonement for sins in a past life led Naomi Watts to take the lead is another mystery, as is the question of how director Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) is going to live this debacle down and go on to helm the next Star Wars.

Jaeden Lieberher plays Henry, an 11-year-old genius who ramps up the value of his waitress mother’s stock portfolio from a phone box. He goes to a regular school despite his stellar IQ because, as he says, "It’s better for my psycho social development for me to interact with my peer group in a normal school environment." He has no father but does share his bedroom with a cute little brother (Jacob Tremblay from Room – wasted here). Henry’s not just brilliant at finances and uttering homilies in class, he’s good with his hands too – he’s singlehandedly built a huge Heath Robinson-esque den in the wood near their home. His ditzy mother Susan (Watts), is happy to have her finances run by her son as she’s addicted to videogames. She’s not pure slacker mom though - she dreams of writing a children’s book between shifts at the local diner and is really good at hugging.The Book of HenrySusan's workmate/bestie is played by Sara Silverman, her bosom tormented by a pushup bra and smothered in tattoos. She has a tendency to flirt with Henry. Again, one wonders what induced an intelligent actor to take this part? The movie then mutates from quirky family comedy to psychodrama, Suffering silently in the house next door is Henry’s classmate Christina, a ‘tween beauty played by Maddie Ziegler (pictured above) who is most famous from regular appearances in the TV hit Dance Moms and a very dodgy Sia video with Shia LaBoeuf). Only Henry knows Christina's dark secret; she is being abused by her wicked stepfather (Dean Norris from Breaking Bad) who just happens to be the local chief of police so no one believes Henry when he sounds the alert…

The Book of Henry then switches genres again to become a disease-of-the-week weepie; it turns out the financial whizzkid is also an expert neurologist who knows which brain tumours are untreatable. At this point my regular 13-year-old movie companion muttered: "It’s now gotten really stupid that he is so clever". Never mind grief-stricken mom, there’s a toweringly hunky doctor (Lee Pace) waiting to cheer her up and Tremblay finally gets a chance to be cute in the school talent show.

The movie makes its final screeching handbrake turn, swerving from weepie to thriller as Susan turns vigilante avenger on behalf of Christina. Luckily, Henry has left detailed instructions (the book of the title) on how to talk tough and illegally buy a gun. He's also available on tape to talk his mom through target practice. Trevorrow cross-cuts between Susan and evil stepdad stalking each other through scary dark woods and the cloying talent show. In a final nonsensical twist, Christina's interpretative dance solo makes the scales fall from the headteacher’s eyes about the abuse allegations - she doesn't just win the talent contest, she gets a new family. By the end of the film, nearly everyone lives happily ever after – except us. The 13-year-old and I would quite like a refund on the 105 minutes we wasted on The Book of Henry. Please don’t make the same mistake.

 @saskiabaron

Overleaf: watch the official trailer for The Book of Henry

The movie makes a screeching handbrake turn, swerving from weepie to thriller

rating

Editor Rating: 
1
Average: 1 (1 vote)

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