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The Book of Henry - Movie Review

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The Book of Henry - Movie Review

2 starsThe Book of Henry is an ambitious, heart-tugging, and well-intentioned tale about the value of family and the lengths to which we are willing to go for our children. It stars Naomi Watts as a single mother struggling to raise her two young boys, one of whom is a genius. Unfortunately, director Colin Trevorrow and writer Gregg Urwitz allow us to forget all the good places their film goes in its early stages by leaving us with a strangely jarring second act that feels as if it belongs in a different movie.

Watts is Susan Carpenter, mother to titular Henry (JaedenLieberher) and his younger brother Peter (Jacob Tremblay). For the most part, their upstate New York lives are fairly ordinary except that out of necessity, 11-year-old Henry has taken on the father role and looks after the entire family by running the household and managing the family’s finances. He not only keeps them afloat financially in large part due to his talents with the stock market, but he’s also just a wise-beyond-his-years kid graced with a pure wholesomeness and tons of empathy for others. So much so, that Henry begins to suspect that Christina (Maddie Ziegler), the young girl living next door, is being abused by her stepfather (Dean Norris).

It’s tricky to talk too much about this one as even the tiniest of slip-ups might spoil a major story point. Regardless, Henry is brilliant with gadgets, gizmos, and whimsical engineering feats, and in a way that only Henry can, he concocts an elaborate plan to save Christina from her evil stepfather (who is also the town’s police chief). But it will take help from his mother.

Finally convinced of her neighbor’s sinister intentions, Susan takes it upon herself to carry out Henry’s extensive scheme. But here’s where the entire movie takes a turn for the worse and begins to put a severe strain on our ability to suspend disbelief.

To this point, we’ve already endured Urwitz’s undisguised plucks on our heart strings, but now things take a dark turn as we’re asked to buy into some pretty drastic changes in character and some even more significant shifts in the film’s tone. We’ve gone from heartfelt and uplifting, to rip-your-heart-out sadness, to below-the-belt vigilantism. The Book of Henry has done a complete 180 and is now a mysterious caper film with spies, illegal guns, and familiar characters doing the unfamiliar.

With so many grand themes touched upon but never fully explored, The Book of Henry feels as if it comes from a novel. But it doesn’t. Urwitz wrote his script for the big screen and, in fact, has spent the last twenty or so years tweaking it, so there’s really no excuse for his many bone-headed story choices. Initially, he was going to some really nice places, but then wrote himself into a corner and couldn’t figure out how to get out.

The Book of Henry wants so badly to be a genre-defying masterpiece that takes on many grand themes and has a lot of salient points to make about family, friendship, and the value of possessing a righteous moral compass in today’s modern world. While there is a ton of creativity and originality in its script, and the film’s look and feel shows flashes of brilliance, it ultimately stumbles quite badly while walking its tonal tightrope. Enough so as to hobble the entire experience quite severely. The Book of Henry is certainly not spineless, but neither is it a real page-turner.

The Book of Henry - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language.
Runtime:
115 mins
Director
: Colin Trevorrow
Writer:
Gregg Urwitz
Cast:
Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay
Genre
: Drama | thriller
Tagline:
Never leave things undone.
Memorable Movie Quote: “Henry, remind me again what we can’t put you in a gifted school."
Theatrical Distributor:
Focus Features
Official Site: http://www.focusfeatures.com/thebookofhenry
Release Date:
June 16, 2017
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: Sometimes things are not always what they seem, especially in the small suburban town where the Carpenter family lives. Single suburban mother Susan Carpenter (Naomi Watts) works as a waitress at a diner, alongside feisty family friend Sheila (Sarah Silverman). Her younger son Peter (Jacob Tremblay) is a playful 8-year-old. Taking care of everyone and everything in his own unique way is Susan’s older son Henry (Jaeden Lieberher), age 11. Protector to his adoring younger brother and tireless supporter of his often self-doubting mother – and, through investments, of the family as a whole – Henry blazes through the days like a comet.

Susan discovers that the family next door, which includes Henry’s kind classmate Christina (Maddie Ziegler), has a dangerous secret – and that Henry has devised a surprising plan to help. As his brainstormed rescue plan for Christina takes shape in thrilling ways, Susan finds herself at the center of it..

No details available.

The Book of Henry - Movie Review

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