Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Book of Henry

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.


  1. I'm afraid I have to disagree with your opinion on how bad this movie was. It should be considered the epiphany of movies that star young actors.
    To plainly state facts, we do not know if Henry became smitten Christina. He simply is concerned with her wellbeing unlike mainly others (as it is seen in the film). All those glances and hints of a relationship puts anyone in an emotional tug of war that will leave you clinging to the edge of your seat!
    Second, this Henry is a child prodigy and only resorted to murder because he was in a extremely difficult situation to hold accusations against the police chief of molesting his daughter!? Yikes! That's quite a claim. Yet we hear from Henry that he has analyzed all the possibilities and he choses murder. Although peronally I disagree with his choice, I infer stood this boy is a child, so yeah, he thinks it's the only option left.
    Third, the plot twist was so unexpected that in the movie theater I had to catch my jaw from hitting the popcorn on the floor! EXACTLY what a plot TWIST should be.
    Nonetheless, it isn't one of my FAVORITE movies, but certainly it is not one of my least favorite. I would call it a "cinematic train wreck" rather a "cinematic train ride" and next stop is at the Oscars!!!

    1. Paul, I must ask you a question & state my rebuttals (as we were both sitting in the same theater watching this film)…

      1. Did you create a Blogger account just for this specific occasion?
      2. It was pretty obvious to me that Henry had a crush on Christina.
      3. He may be a child, & they may have mentioned other possibilities, but they didn't spend enough time on those possibilities.
      4. The plot twist was awful. It was so emotionally manipulative that it didn't make you naturally feel emotions, but it forcefully extracted them.
      5. It is a cinematic trainwreck (& I think you meant to put the latter option first). Also, this movie won't make it anywhere near the Oscars. It has a 23% on Rotten Tomatoes, a 31% on Metacritic, & a 5.7/10 on IMDb. Besides, there are so many other films that have much better chances of getting Oscar nominations:

      The Lego Batman Movie; Get Out; Logan; Kong: Skull Island; Beauty & the Beast; The Lost City of Z; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2; Wonder Woman; It Comes at Night; Beatriz at Dinner; Baby Driver; The Beguiled; The Big Sick; Spider-Man: Homecoming; War for the Planet of the Apes; Dunkirk; An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power; Detroit; Wind River; Good Time; The Glass Castle; Logan Lucky; Patti Cake$; Tulip Fever; It; Woodshock; Stronger; Battle of the Sexes; The LEGO Ninjago Movie; Victoria & Abdul; American Made; Blade Runner 2049; The Mountain Between Us; Breathe; Mother!; Goodbye Christopher Robin; Marshall; The Snowman; Thank You for Your Service; Professor Marston & the Wonder Women; Thor: Ragnarok; The Killing of a Sacred Deer; Murder on the Orient Express; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Wonder; Last Flag Flying; Coco; Darkest Hour; Molly's Game; Call Me by Your Name; The Disaster Artist; The Shape of Water; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; The Current War; Downsizing; Happy End; The Greatest Showman; The Papers; & White Boy Rick.

      So… the Oscar chances for The Book of Henry are absolutely nonexistent.