MovieBob Reviews THE BOOK OF HENRY

first_img MovieBob Reviews: ‘Shadow’MovieBob Reviews: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ Stay on target — The following piece includes MAJOR SPOILERS for The Book of Henry —Is The Book of Henry Good?No. But, since it came out last week and is already Film Twitter’s favorite punching bag of the moment, you probably already heard that.It sounds like you disagree?Not exactly. It’s a bad movie, but I can’t get onboard with it as some kind of legendarily bad cautionary tale in the making (and the idea that it should get Colin Trevorrow “fired” from his Star Wars movie is ridiculous on its face.) As crummy “precocious wonder-child” movies go, it’s not anywhere near as ghastly as Little Boy or The Odd Life of Timothy Green.What’s it about?Henry is a 12-year-old super-genius. He talks like an adult and builds complex Rube Goldberg inventions for fun. He knows everything about math, medicine, science, history, psychology, criminology, etc. And he has the kind of suped-up treehouse no actual child has ever actually constructed, has made his family rich(ish) with savvy stock market investments and basically manages all scheduling and finances for his younger brother and single mom (Naomi Watts). The “gimmick” at play is that said Mom is Henry’s exact opposite: She’s well-meaning but scatterbrained, immature and kind of dumb – he sits at a desk going over bills and rolling his eyes with exasperation while she gets way too into Gears of War on the couch, that sort of thing.That sounds harmless…Oh, he’s also discovered that the girl living next door to them is being raped by her stepfather. He tries to report it, but said stepdad is also the Chief of Police and well-connected so no one can do anything about it. So Henry begins using his superhuman brain to figure out a scheme to deal with the problem himself. Unfortunately, just as he’s getting started his super-brain turns out to be afflicted with a super-tumor and (SPOILER!) Henry dies about midway through the movie.What!?Yeah. As it turns out, the story is actually mostly about how Henry’s mom is going to cope with having to finally become something like a functioning grown up now that she doesn’t have a magic genius-kid handling all her problems.So why is it called “The Book of Henry?”After Henry is gone, it turns out that he’s left a handwritten notebook (and audio tapes) laying out ridiculously complex step-by-step instructions for his mother to follow to save the neighbor girl. Like purchasing an illegal high-powered sniper rifle, learning to use it, luring the evil stepdad into a trap and killing him.That sounds completely bonkers.Well… it is and it isn’t, in my opinion. That preposterous second-half premise is what people are freaking out about, but what I think is being missed/ignored is that (SPOILER!) the big denouement is that mom ultimately decides not to follow through on the final part of the plan. Mostly because she’s finally realized that even though she and everyone treated Henry like an adult because he was smart, he was still a kid and “just kill the bad guy” is a kid’s (wrongheaded) solution to an adult problem. And that she needs to solve it like a grownup, instead. In essence, The Book of Henry is trying to be a deconstruction of the “wonder-kid who’s more of a grown up than the grownups” wish-fulfillment genre. Hence why Henry effectively becomes a “ghost” at the midpoint: It’s not about his kind of character, it’s about the way movies/culture idealize them (and how it’s maybe not the healthiest idea.)Interesting. So why doesn’t it work?It reminds me of The Lovely Bones (remember that one?) in that I’m not sure what it’s “going for” could ever be made to work as a narrative film. But where it mainly breaks down is that it’s nowhere near tightly-constructed enough for such a preposterous premise to stand up (the succession of coincidences and contrivances that play out to make sure we get a happy ending even though mom doesn’t pull the trigger is laughably sloppy). And it has a major tone problem. Once you clue-in on the genre-deconstruction angle at play, you keep expecting it to drop the “Spielburbia” nostalgic-whimsy atmosphere in tandem with dialing back our illusions about Henry’s righteousness… but that moment never comes, so the darker the story gets the more absurd the myriad Amblin-isms start to feel.Example?There’s a talent show happening during the will she/won’t-she sniper climax. The school principal, who had previously ignored and brushed off all of Henry’s pleas to call Child Services about the evil stepdad, sees the girl next door getting super sad and emotionally “intense” during her ballet routine and suddenly realizes that he was telling the truth and runs off to make the call. This is repeatedly cut back to because the show is serving as our obligatory Act 3 “ticking clock” – will Naomi Watts make it back from not murdering someone in time to see her son do his magic act?So you don’t recommend it?No. It’s bad. But I see people trying to turn it into a kind of ironic, “So bad you have to see it.” But it’s just a regular ordinary not-good movie that’s getting an undue amount of attention because Colin Tervorrow is the poster child for “over-promoted” tentpole directors of the moment.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img

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