Disney has been playing musical chairs with the directors of its new treasured addition, STAR WARS. First, the creators behind THE LEGO MOVIE were given the boot on the Han Solo project and then later in the year, word came that Colin Trevorrow and Disney had agreed to part ways over the untitled ninth addition to the STAR WARS universe. Many have tried to see if there’s anything between the lines, mainly because of a dud that Trevorrow had directed, THE BOOK OF HENRY. I doubt it was the box office receipts that had Disney worried.
It’s difficult to summarize the problems with THE BOOK OF HENRY without revealing the unexpected turn of events midway through the film. It starts out easily enough, introducing us to boy genius, Henry (Lieberher). At the age of 11, he’s already solidified his position as head of the household. He talks over the phone with a stock investor beefing up the family’s investments, savings accounts, and probably his mother’s 401K. You see, their single mom Susan (Watts) works as a waitress at the town diner and I doubt she’s bringing home the bacon.
There’s a moment in the film where Susan unwinds after a long day with co-worker Sheila (Sarah Silverman), while Henry scribbles away in a notebook and his brother, Peter (Tremblay), devices another Rube Goldberg machine. It’s clear from that scene, along with others, that Susan has a hands-off approach to the two child prodigies. That also might be the reason why she doesn’t notice something Henry sees.
Henry begins to notice, piece together, and then they take it upon himself to alert people to abuse happening next door. We don’t actually see any of the abuse, but we’re expected to believe that Henry’s vast intellect picks up on psychological traits and patterns reminiscent of abuse victims. However, we do see the lack of action on the end of law enforcement, social services and school officials when Henry attempts to do something about it.
Despite a great cast and wonderful direction, THE BOOK OF HENRY nosedives fast in the second half. It’s sometimes comical, in a bad way, but a tad disgusting when the movie grasps at humor to try and balance the increasingly dark subject matter. I give creative points to writer Gregg Hurwitz, who mainly writes crime and suspense novels, for attempting to break preconceived storytelling rules. However, some of the rules aren’t just broken, they’re shattered, and some of those rules probably should have been left alone.
The film’s second half focus switches from Henry to Susan and from what we’ve been shown about Susan, it’s unbelievable and undeniably absurd. The unconventional direction of THE BOOK OF HENRY to me was generally fascinating, even if it left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s almost like going to a restaurant and trying a new food. You may not like what you ended up with, but you feel somewhat accomplished for going out on a limb.
THE BOOK OF HENRY tries to end on a high note. But it feels like more like an eraser to what the film was originally building up to. But if the film had followed through with its narrative threat, it may have actually been better off. Of course then it may have run the risk of being an absolute disaster. Don’t take my vague words for it though; THE BOOK OF HENRY is almost a must-see, like a car crash. Although from the rumors around Hollywood, it sound like Disney didn’t like what they saw, so maybe you won’t either.
Video: (1080p HD Widescreen 2:00:1) This is a high-quality production and it comes through beautifully on this blu-ray.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The score manages to match the misguided and jumbled tone of the film and it’s presented without issue on this blu-ray.
Filming THE BOOK OF HENRY (9:06): This feature talks about the story and the script’s two decades on the shelf before it was made. The feature has some interesting notes and information dropped by Trevorrow and writer Gregg Hurwitz
THE BOOK OF HENRY: The Cast (8:52): This feature tries to highlight how the cast nails everything asked of them. Naomi Watts and child actors given the most credit by the crew for her skills.