Monday, 3 July 2017

The Book of Henry (2017)

The Book of Henry film poster.jpg
A book written in spit and half-eaten crayon

Director: Colin Trevorrow
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay, Naomi Watts, Dean Norris, Maddie Ziegler, Sarah Silverman, Lee Pace


After delivering the latest entry into the Jurassic Park franchise, which proved very profitable for the studio, it makes sense how quickly Colin Trevorrow was snapped up for a Star Wars film. Many were curious as to what his next feature film would be, prior to venturing to a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. After viewing, the biggest question is how such a mess of a product could have made it this far, and actually garnered such a wide release.

11 year old genius Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) lives with his younger brother, Peter (Jacob Tremblay), raised by their single mother, Susan (Naomi Watts). Endlessly supporting his family, Henry uses his intellect to invest in the stock market, and build contraptions to cheer up his bullied brother. He's fond of his next door neighbour, Christina (Maggie Ziegler), but is shocked to discover she's being abused by her stepfather. Through careful instructions in his notebook, Susan finds herself in the middle of a plan to rescue Christina from her horror.

Image result for book of henry youtubeTo their credit, both Jaeden Lieberher and Jacob Tremblay do terrific work in their roles. They're a pair of talented young actors, both doing a good job in realising their characters, as well as their relationships. Less so can be said about Naomi Watts, an actress who can often be relied upon for a terrific performance. Here, she appears to be phoning it in, often reduced to unresponsive attempts at conveying emotion through baking, and pretending to play Gears of War.

Director Colin Trevorrow is clearly attempting to deliver a Steven Spielberg style picture, mixing the perils of childhood with heartbreaking realities of the world, perhaps with a bit of lost innocence thrown in there. Sadly, what's intended fails to materialise, instead resembling an amateurish TV movie, that somehow contains a scene hinting at sexual tension between Sarah Silverman, and the 11 year old protagonist (yes, you read that right). To be fair, it's hard to imagine a stronger director making something passable out of Gregg Hurwitz's script, which is easily the biggest offender of all.

It'd be kind to describe it as an awful mess, as it's packed full of laughable plot contrivances, and jarring tonal shifts that are unbelievable in how they inhabit the same film. What begins feeling like a live action version of Jimmy Neutron then tackles the subject of child abuse, feeling completely out of place as to what came before it. But those elements sit comfortably with one another, in comparison to what occurs next. A turn which I dare not spoil leads to a militarised Naomi Watts brandishing a gun, taking the most convoluted of thought out orders. The combining of these disparate threads in the same film is such an inept task, like trying to clean spilled paint with a straw, a damp sock and a can of deodorant.

Experiencing The Book of Henry will leave one in disbelief, as to how a woefully misjudged and incompetent TV movie made it onto the big screen. A poor jumble of ideas pitifully realised, coming off as Jimmy Neutron and his militarised mother versus child abuse.

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