½★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
I must ask people who are currently reading this review: Have any of you ever seen a film at one time or another that had, for any amount of time, made you lose your faith in cinema? A film that made you feel that no matter how good a film could be, your faith in cinema could never be regained?
This is the film that made me lose my faith in cinema.
The Book of Henry doesn't look like a film that could do that. I will admit, the trailer did look promising. It had an excellent cast, & a good director behind the camera. But when I actually went & saw the film (& read some reviews), I saw what could honestly be described as a cinematic trainwreck.
The film focuses on 11-year-old Henry Carpenter (played by Jaeden Lieberher), a child genius in the Hudson Valley area of New York. He is, only because he's a child genius, the main financial caretaker of his family, having kept track of the taxes & bills, & having invested successfully in the stock market. He lives with his younger brother, Peter (played by Jacob Tremblay), & his mother, Susan (played by Naomi Watts), who besides being a waitress at a diner, aggressively plays the video game Gears of War while Henry takes care of the taxes & bills.
Henry becomes smitten with Christina Sickleman (played by Maddie Ziegler), his classmate & neighbor, stepdaughter of Glenn Sickleman (played by Dean Norris), the town's police commissioner. After careful consideration, Henry has come to the realization that Christina is being molested by Glenn. (Also, look deeply into Glenn's last name, Sickleman. Sick-le-man. That sounds like sick little (lil) man, doesn't it? This was confirmed by the film's director, Colin Trevorrow. It's literally the stupidest thing I've heard in a film this year).
Using his superior intellect, Henry devises a plan for Susan to kill Glenn with a sniper rifle so she can adopt Christina, thereby ending the series of molestations by her father. (Questions: doesn't she have any immediate family members? And why would they immediately decide to look into her next-door neighbor for her to adopt Christina?) But before this disaster-in-waiting can begin to be thought out, something that I can only describe as the WORST PLOT TWIST IN FILM HISTORY occurs, sending this film into a deep, deep hole it can't even try to dig itself out of.
The performances are awful, but that can't be blamed on the actors. Instead, it must be blamed on the historically awful script by generally unknown crime novelist Gregg Hurwitz, who has wrote a script filled with such melodramatic clichés, & so many tonal shifts that the film itself does not know whether it wants to be an indie comedy, a heartfelt drama, or a gritty thriller.
And this isn't helped at all by director Colin Trevorrow, who after having directed 2012's Safety Not Guaranteed & 2015's Jurassic World, has fallen back to Earth in a dramatic fashion, & his awful direction here makes me worried for 2019's Star Wars: Episode IX, which he will be directing.
And Kevin Stitt's editing doesn't help either, as the film is poorly edited, with a series of bad cuts throughout the film, & I wondered how the film ended up in certain places, which is never a good sign.
I never thought that I would see a worse film this year than Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul or The Circle. Turns out I was wrong. Deeply wrong.
The Book of Henry was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Friday, June 16, 2017. It is currently in 6 theaters in the Detroit area, including the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI, the AMC Star Great Lakes 25 in Auburn Hills, MI & the AMC Classic Fairlane 21 in Dearborn, MI. Its runtime is 105 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for thematic elements & brief strong language.