REVIEW: The Book of Henry (2017)

Theatrical Release Poster – Focus Features

The following is a review of The Book of Henry – Directed by Colin Trevorrow

About a month ago, Colin Trevorrow was replaced by J. J. Abrams as the director of the forthcoming Star Wars: Episode IX. Why am I putting that information into my review of a completely different movie?

Well, because when The Book of Henry was released in the United States back in June, critics actually speculated that this film might cost Trevorrow his chance at directing a Star Wars movie. I think it probably did factor into Lucasfilm’s decision, because The Book of Henry really isn’t a good movie.

The Book of Henry is a drama about a single mother, Susan Carpenter (played by Naomi Watts), and her two sons Henry (played by Jaeden Lieberher) and his younger brother Peter (played by Jacob Tremblay). Henry is, quite frankly, a genius. He isn’t just the smartest kid in class, he also takes care of the bills and invests on behalf of his mother while she plays Gears of War on her Xbox.

In fact, he’s so ‘mature’ for his age that he, at times, talks to his mother as if he had been married to her for all eleven years of his life. Susan and Henry both care for the young girl next door, Christina Sickleman (played by Maddie Ziegler), who Susan at one point refers to as her ‘future daughter-in-law.’

When Henry notices that Christina is the victim of abuse, he talks to the school and social services. But when nothing works, Henry starts taking notes in a little book that is meant to guide Susan in killing Christina’s step-father, Glenn (played by Dean Norris) — the local police commissioner.

The Book of Henry is a failed tearjerker. The lengths it it is willing to go to as an emotionally manipulative ‘family film’ is disturbing. As far as bad movies go, The Book of Henry is a triple threat: at times, it is offensive, its plot can be laughable, and the ending is somewhat inane.

However, I don’t think any of the actors make fools of themselves. I think Lieberher, Tremblay, and Watts are all fine — the movie just doesn’t properly support the potential of those performances. However, Dean Norris and Maddie Ziegler’s roles are paper-thin and only serve to propel the story into the ludicrous territory of its thriller-like section.

It makes sense that Colin Trevorrow would want to make a much smaller movie after the behemoth that was Jurassic World, which he also directed. But I am genuinely baffled as to why he chose this odd story to tell. The Book of Henry is a monstrous mash-up of a ‘lifetime movie’ and an assassination thriller.

4.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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