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Review: The Book of Henry

(L-r) Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay and Naomi Watts star in Focus Features' THE BOOK OF HENRY

Looking like a unique movie on its surface, The Book of Henry had me intrigued. It’s the kind of picture that could be different in cinematic world where familiarity is what most usually strive for. Of course, that alone wouldn’t make it into something worth seeing. Not only that, but it turns out that the amount of rare qualities showcased in this may have actually caused it to fail when speaking of it becoming something that could attract a loyal following no matter how small.

In a small suburb, a family of three are living an unorthodox existence that sees eleven-year-old Henry Carpenter (Jaeden Lieberher) leading the household. With his younger brother (Jacob Tremblay) and his mother (Naomi Watts) both needing guidance, he’s chosen to use his maturity and his high IQ to push them forward. This has been handled well by the young man, but he’s more than willing to take on more once he uncovers the dark secrets of the family that live next door.

The Book of Henry kind of loses you after a while. This happens right about when a major shift comes and everything begins to change focus. I can’t completely say why it seems to be this way, but I know that a part of it has to do with the first story that we’re presented with here takes on an unfinished feel. Based on how it’s laid out for us, you expect it to carry on one way, but you end up with a sense that it’s incomplete and we weren’t even finished getting to know the characters like we’re supposed to.

Before we know it, the movie is going in a different direction while somehow staying on the same path. This is even more awkward when you realize that the shift is truly meaningless. Merely keeping the focus the same and allowing audiences to connect with the characters the way they were first presented to us could have probably improved the movie. Staying on this course could have also lead The Book of Henry down a path that was significantly more dangerous and intense.

Obviously, this could have caused issues with the studio wanting to release the movie, but I doubt too many people will see it anyway. With that being the likely scenario, they should have just gone down the strange path that they looked to be going down. Making the adjustments that they do however, destroys the chance of this being something that would standout even if it didn’t manage to make a bunch of cash at the box office.

While what I’ve written about may be enough to warrant a negative reaction from most, I also feel the need to speak about the biggest issue that I had with this one. Logic is something that you sometimes have to ignore, but it’s kind of difficult to do here. To put it as clearly as possible, the logic behind the story that we get here doesn’t work at all. It becomes even harder to look past when you add that Lieberher’s character is supposed to be an eleven-year-old genius who can pretty much figure out anything.

Overall, the movie itself isn’t terrible, but it is what you come to see as unnecessary. Aside from the performances that we get from the two kid actors, this movie won’t leave much of an impression on you. It sucks because it had the potential to be a unique film that could have stayed with whoever watched it. Instead, The Book of Henry turns into something that never lives up to what it could have been due to there not being enough character development while also trying to do too much with the story.

Rating: PG-13

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Naomi Watts
Jacob Tremblay
Jaeden Lieberher
Maddie Ziegler
Sarah Silverman
Lee Pace
Dean Norris

Film Length: 106 minutes

Release Date: June 16, 2017

Distributor: Focus Features

  • Score - 4/10
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