The Book of Henry Review

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This book should’ve stayed a book

Most of what Hollywood puts out these days is remakes and regurgitated nonsense.  There’s entertainment to be derived from that, certainly, but it’s refreshing to get something original every now and then. Book of Henry is not your standard summer fare and I went in not knowing what was in store for me.  That’s an exciting feeling for sure, but as the movie progressed I found myself asking if we are willing to overlook mediocrity because something is original.

Just that thought that alone probably tells you all you need to know about this movie but for those wanting more details, I’ll elaborate.  Let’s start with the plot. Henry is an extremely gifted child. Borderline unbelievably so but this is a movie after all.  He is the one who takes care of his younger brother and manages the financial situation of the home for his mother.  Henry thinks of everything all the time.  Henry and his mother discover that the young daughter next door is in danger, so they devise a plan to help her out. 

There’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to spoil anything.  Let’s just say, that it starts out ok enough then accelerates into absurdity about halfway through. That’s the big issue with this film.  The tonal shifts are jarring.  The movie starts out as sort of a feel good young man’s Good Will Hunting and then transforms into a dark episode of Jason Bourne. There’s about three different films here that are choppily put together with no nuanced progression between the segments. 

I think unexpected tonal shifts can work if done correctly but you can’t overdo it. It’s not the tone shifts that only hurt this movie however.  The ridiculousness of what happens is also kind of laughable. For one thing, Henry, who is played Jaeden Lieberher, is almost an omnipotent oracle.  There’s no way this kid could have done some of the things that he does in this movie. He also has this holier than thou persona which made me think whether I liked the character at all.  Was it the way the character was written or the actor who played him? Hard to say as it could be both. 

Glenn, the antagonist of the movie played by Dean Norris, is also improperly built up.  We go through the whole movie not knowing much about him.  He’s distanced to the sidelines for most of the movie, so we never really get a true glimpse at what this character is all about.  It makes the payoff seem rather uneventful and way too convenient.

The only thing I liked about this movie is Naomi Watts.  She is an enjoyable on-screen presence despite the material she has to work with. Naomi is great but she is not enough to compel me to recommend this movie to anyone.  It’s not a truly terrible movie, as in it has so bad it’s good potential.  It also gets points for originality but this is one book you don’t want to read.

Grade: D

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