This one works as punishment.

So basically this was a good idea.

Matt Goldberg of Collider.com calls The Book of Henry “one of the most twisted movies [he has] ever seen”, and other sources claim that this disaster of tonal whiplash will be listed among The Room and Birdemic for future movie nights. Describing it starts off harmless, but something will seem very off very quickly. Basically, reading a synopsis is similar to watching the trailer, but yes, it is real.

Yes, I’m still pretty sure the film is set in modern times.

The film is about a clever little boy (Jaeden Lieberher) who looks after his younger brother (Jacob Tremblay) and their suburban home whilst the single mother (Naomi Watts) is going through a rough patch, and he also has a crush on the girl next door (Maddie Ziegler) who goes to his school. Oh and the father of said crush is a corrupt policeman (Dean Norris) who sexually abuses her on the regular and since alerting the law seems futile, the clever boy and later his mother take it upon themselves to assasinate the policeman through an elaborate plan involving a sniper rifle. And not once during production did someone stop and say “No but seriously, what movie are we really making?”

To be more precise, the clever boy, Henry, eventually dies from a terrible brain tumor – because movies about broken families, grief, and diseases are so sad and good, you guys – leaving behind a notebook containing information on how to murder the abusive neighbor and get away with it. He has instructed the brother, Peter, to hand the notebook to the mother, Susan, who promises to fullfill her dead child’s wish. In addition to being irresponsible and broken, I fear her willingness to commit manslaughter for her deceased son is meant to pass as one of her “redeeming” qualities.

May as well mention the assorted side characters. There’s Sarah Silverman, playing Susan’s table-waiting colleague and drinking buddy, Lee Pace is the doctor who treats Henry (clearly too late since the tumor seems to have taken its toll on his ability to make decisions), and there is also the generic school bully because where would we be without him? The direction is done by Colin Trevorrow, who is next in line to direct a Star Wars film. I’m not entirely sarcastic when I say that this may be what the franchise needs.

Many critics have already berated The Book of Henry, regarding it with a sort of disgusted awe, and compared it to last year’s Collateral Beauty, another unintentionally laughable drama ostensibly about coping with grief that wanted to be serious but shot itself in the ass by also adding idiotic nonsense. Films about loss can be extremely powerful, as proven by such recent examples as Arrival and A Monster Calls. Maybe the success of those movies is what made it into a trend that has fallen into less capable hands?

This film is supposedly based on 20-year-old screenplay, indicating it was removed from a vault where it should probably have remained. At the very least, it should have been handed to one of the writers for Billy and Mandy. I can see it front of me now. Billy gets a bulging tumor on his nose and he is asked what his final wish is. His mother vows to make it come true, before learning that Billy really wants his neighbor to die. Then, just as it seems as if the mother will cancel and a lesson will be learned at the last second, the neighbor dies horribly of a random, unrelated cause.

The Book of Henry is fascinatingly bad. The writing is bereft of subtext, hammering us constantly with the knowledge of how useless the suffering adults are and how above-it-all the insufferable children are, and the attempt to occasionally be an eccentric yet dark comedy à la Wes Anderson is shaping up to be the worst misfire in recent film history. And not only since, as I must reiterate, the rest of this picture is meant to be taken pretty seriously.

To quote Matt Goldberg again: “I’ve seen stranger movies than The Book of Henry, but those strange movies know they’re strange. … The twisted thing about The Book of Henry is that it carries itself like a normal movie. It thinks that it’s a little quirky but emotionally honest movie about trying to murder your neighbor because your genius dead son left you instructions on how to do so.”

He then, generously, rated it a D. I’m not even sure I would use the Latin alphabet.

1/5 whatever

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