Geek Review: The Book Of Henry

Oftentimes, a director who has a huge smash hit of some kind can command some money to make a passion project of some kind, a movie that allows the director to tell the sort of story he really wants to tell.  It will be interesting to see post-Wonder Woman what Patty Jenkins might be able to whip up once she takes a step away from the Amazing Amazon.

Colin Trevorrow directed Jurassic World, and though opinions of that movie range from the “meh” to the “BURN THE NEGATIVES!” around here, now Trevorrow has the chance to do something decidedly not sci-fi.  How is it?

Well, this was a fairly generic movie.  I will give the ad campaign credit for obscuring a major second act plot twist, something that changes the whole tone of the movie, but even then there’s nothing really special about the movie.  It’s not really a crowd-pleaser, and whatever you thought it might be based on trailers and ads, I guarantee the movie isn’t that.  However, I can only say so much without revealing the plot twist, and I pride myself on writing SPOILER-FREE reviews, so here’s what I can say based off the ad campaign and what it tells.

Eleven-going-on-twelve-going-on-forty-year-old Henry Carpenter (Jaeden Lieberher, the kid from Midnight Special) is a genius kid inventor who more or less runs his household.  His single mom Susan (Naomi Watts) lets him make all the financial decisions–which he’s good at–and though he is far more gifted than all his classmates, he still insists on going to a regular school.  He has a younger brother Peter (SAG Award nominee Jacob Tremblay, the kid from Room) who looks up to Henry, as does, well, everyone except his mother’s best gal pal Sheila (Sarah Silverman), who mostly just trades insults with the boy.  Henry has seen his next door neighbor Christina (model/dancer Maddie Ziegler, who I sadly know best from that abominable Dance Moms) is being abused by her stepfather Glen (Breaking Bad‘s Dean Norris), and Henry wants to put a stop to it.  There’s a problem there since Glen, among other things, is the town’s police commissioner.  Can a genius like Henry figure a way to help the girl next door?

Here’s the thing:  neither Trevorrow nor writer Gregg Hurwitz bring much new to this story.  True, the plot twist could send it off into a new direction, but in the end, not really.  I don’t think there was anything to this movie I hadn’t seen before.  Casting Lieberher and Tremblay is a nod to wanting to put some quality kid actors into the different roles, and the casting is intriguing, but ultimately, the material these actors and the adults are given isn’t something that hasn’t been done before.

Considering how unoriginal Jurassic World ultimately was, perhaps this is just what we can come to expect from Treverrow.  Seven out of ten Rube Goldberg  devices.  We might be able to point to the fact that Susan and Henry have reverse roles within their household and she needs to figure out how to stand on her own during the course of the movie, but that doesn’t add up to much when all is said and done.

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