I’ve not seen many of Colin Trevorrow’s films, but Jurassic World (2015) was tons of fun despite the dumb elements in it. The cast of The Book of Henry (2017) was enough to make me ignore the negative critical reviews when I saw it at Redbox. However, the film was full of horrible writing and some really ridiculous moments that managed to destroy any enjoyment I could have found in it.
The Book of Henry was an absolute mess
Henry Carpenter (Jaeden Lieberher) is a genius and the man of the house. He manages his mother’s, Susan’s (Naomi Watts), finances and eating habits for the family, which includes his younger brother, Peter (Jacob Tremblay). Henry has a clear moral code and seeks to help people in need. Once he realizes his neighbor Christina (Maddie Ziegler) is being abused by her stepfather, Police Chief Glenn Sickleman (Dean Norris), he seeks to rescue her. However, when the system proves to be corrupt, he uses his superior intellect to sculpt a plan to save her.
That premise alone was initially enough to make me want to see the film. Sure, it seemed melodramatic, but any kid who read a Batman comic was likely moved to step in when the system in place was corrupted to the point that it no longer served its purpose. Granted, most of us would never actually have the guts or the ability to intervene, but stories of others are usually compelling. Unfortunately, this is only one of the plot lines, and a major twist in the film finds Henry in another battle that creates many of the worst parts of this film.
The performances in the movie are not bad at all. However, the characters are weakly written – especially Susan, who makes the audience wonder how she even managed to have children, as she seems inept at everything. Henry turned out so well by sheer force of will, based on the plot of the movie. It’s a shame as Watts is terrific, but the character is so clueless and used to manufacture so much false tension that I found myself rolling my eyes so hard that my entire head tilted backward. This film attempts to tug at the emotional heartstrings but does so in ways that are so cheap and unearned that it made any sympathy I may have had hardened into stone.
The Book of Henry was a movie that I was mocked for wanting to see an episode of Movie Club. I was so hopeful that this would be an enjoyable film…and every ounce of that hope was shattered. There are still solid performances, and my wife managed to find elements in the film which she was moved by, but I don’t recommend it at all. In fact, The Book of Henry earns the Avoid like the Plague rating.