Movie Review: “The Book of Henry”
The Book of Henry
Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) is a child genius. He's a very intelligent inventor, handles the household's bills and manages his mom's financial situation. In many ways, he is more of a responsible adult than his mother. One day, he notices that his neighbor (Dean Norris) has been molesting his step-daughter (Maddie Ziegler) who is a girl in Henry's class. Henry decides to take action, but there is one problem. The girl's step-dad is also the police commissioner which makes it so that no one will believe Henry without substantial evidence. This leads Henry to use his genius fi come up with a master plan that will bring the police commissioner to justice. Henry fills his notebook with this plan and considers everything down to the tiniest detail. Unfortunatel, Henry cannot fulfill his plan himself so he convinces his mother (Naomi Watts) to execute his plan and save the girl next door.
The Pros & Cons
The Solution (-6pts)
Dr. Love-Interest (-3pts)
Pro: Acting (+6pts)
The acting in this movie was pretty strong from most of the cast. Henry (Jaeden Lieberher), Peter (Jacob Tremblay), Susan (Naomi Watts) and Glenn (Dean Norris) all gave interesting and (at times) impressive performances throughout the movie. This was substantidally improved the movie, as far as keeping me interested. These performances were fun to watch. Jaeden plays a child genius that struggles with the realization that someone he knows is being hurt on a regular basis. He also struggles with the fact that, being a child, he is unable to stop it. Susan and Peter struggle with their own personal issues (that I will not get into to avoid spoilers) and Glenn plays an intense antagonist that makes for a fun character to watch when he's on screen.
Con: The Solution (-6pts)
This movie presents a problem. Henry discovers the girl next door is being abused by her step-father on a regular basis. The movie then presents a handful of possible solutions to that problem. Due to Glenn being the police commissioner, he has professional ties in certain places which makes certain "solutions" inapplicable here. However, the "solution" that Henry decides upon seems like a drastic one and there seems to be several possible solutions that are not as severe or dangerous. I just felt like the decided solution was not justified which made that part of the plot uninteresting because I was not invested. Lazy writing is a huge turn off for me and this movie had some pretty lazy writing.
Pro: Brothers (+4pts)
I really enjoyed the dynamic between the two brothers in this film. Henry is a genius inventor of a older brother while Peter is the (smart but) normal little brother. Peter idolizes his older brother and wants to be an inventor like him. Henry, is a protective older brother that just wants his little brother to be happy and safe. Henry and Peter had really good chemistry in this movie. Their relationship was written well and the actors executed it effectively. This movie was at its best when these two were on screen together and I think the actors are a huge part of that. Jaeden Lieberher and Jacob Tremblay, those are two young actors to watch out for as they both have the potential for great things.
Con: Dr. Love-Interest (-3pts)
There is a storyline in this movie where something occurs (intentionally vague to avoid spoilers) that results in Henry having to go to the hospital. The doctor treating him, played by Lee Pace, should been in the movie for, maybe, ten minutes but the character is then randomly dorces into the rest of the story as a potential love interest for Susan (Naomi Watts). I am not quite sure what went wrong here. Was it a minor character that was forced into more plot because there was a big name actor attached to it? Was the love interest storyline well written and then cut down to reduce runtime? I am not sure, but the result was a forced love interest storylind that the movie never capitalizes on.
Pro: Henry (+8pts)
I kind of already touched on this, but Henry was a pretty interesting character to watch. Jaeden Lieberher did a great job in the role and the character was written really well. He is a child genius that realizes he is socially awkward so personally made the choice to go to a public school so he could improve his social skills. That is the kind of character he is. He loves his brother, loves his mother, is a genius inventor, has an interesting philosophy on life and death, manages his mothers bills, is hugely successful in the stock market and he has a brave behavior that does not tolerate inaction. Take away the plot of this film and I would watch a whole movie just about the life of this character. My only complaint was his "solution" the abuse issue in this movie. Henry comes up with this solution even though there are several more practical and effective than the solution that Henry chose. After building up this genius character, this decision does not fit. Other than that, this character was a lot of fun to watch.
Con: Anti-Climactic (-5pts)
This sort of goes along with my issue with the "solution". The story builds and builds and builds to that ridiculous solution. Then, when it finally comes time to capitalize on it, the movie goes "Ehh, never mind" and finishes with a different possible solution that got no build up whatsoever.
Grade: C+ (79pts)
The Book of Henry was a fairly average movie. It is loaded with a talented cast who give good performances and it has some interesting characters. My favorite moments of this film were when Henry and Peter were interacting together. The two had an entertaining brother dynamic. I thought the build up in this movie was well written. From the characters to the plot, it worked, but everything seemed to fall apart in the end. The "solution" to the movie's problems seemed unjustified and the climax of the film did not capitalize on the decision they made. There is also a random, seemingly very forced love interest in the movie. The doctor, who should have been a very small role, was forced into the rest of the plot as a potential love interest for Henry's mother and it just did not work.
To sum up, this movie has its good moments and it has its bad moments. The result is a fairly average movie so, because of that, I do not recommend rushing out to the theaters to see it. MAYBE rent it if you are bored around the time it comes out on home video.