The Book of Henry might have some interesting ideas but the tonal shifts are so frequent and jarring that you’re left wondering what kind of movie this is and who it was made for.
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Summary: A single mother discovers a scheme in her son’s book to rescue a young girl from the hands of her abusive stepfather and sets out to execute the plan at any cost.
There is nothing worse than a good idea executed poorly. All you can do is stare as massively amounts of potential are lost down the drain because of some very bad decisions. In the case of The Book of Henry this bad decision comes from the fact that there was enough material here for an eight episode Netflix mini-series that instead tries to cram all of that information into less than two hours. It does not work and the main reason it does not work is the changes in tone. As you watch The Book of Henry you’re often left wondering who this movie was made for and who is the intended audience. It starts off with two brothers Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) and Peter (Jacob Tremblay) and their single mom Naomi Watts) just trying to get by. Then it becomes a tragedy for reasons that are kind of a spoiler. Then it switches a third time to a movie where a mother plans to murder her neighbor to save an abused kid.
If that all sounds a bit bonkers it’s because it is. The tonal shifts between these three different moments in the movie are so jarring they might give you whiplash. In a longer form of media, like a television show, they could be telegraphed and slowly change. Instead we have a movie that changes on the drop of a hat from one type of movie to another with no regard and it doesn’t make sense. This is not a movie for kids despite the kid actors, it’s not a movie for adults because they’ll be too busy scratching their heads, this is a movie for no one. The trailer doesn’t even really tell you what the movie is about because it’s about so little and way too much at the same time.
It felt like The Book of Henry was trying to make a huge point about something but it was so muddled there wasn’t any clear answer as to what that point was. In a television show the three different parts of the plot could have been given some time to breathe but instead it’s all rushed along so quickly none of it has any staying power. There are some hugely moving moments in the middle but they are the kind of moving that always comes with that particular plot twist. The family dynamics at play here were the only interesting thing with Henry basically being the responsible adult in the family. A movie about that would have been interesting but instead The Book of Henry gets sidetracked, stumbles, and then never gets back up.
The Book of Henry is only going to be notable for how much it wastes a fantastic cast which also includes Lee Pace and Sarah Silverman but also the lingering doubt we all have with director Colin Trevorrow who is directing Star Wars: Episode IX. Aside from all of that it’s utterly disposable and forgettable.
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