The Book of Henry really wants us to believe that its 12-year-old title character (Jaeden Lieberher) is the smartest kid on Earth. Well, in many ways, he is. He’s a rational, logical thinker who knows how to play the stock market. He handles his family’s finances and works on cute, Rube Goldberg–style contraptions in his treehouse with his little brother (Room’s Jacob Tremblay, looking like a baby Rick Moranis). He even knows how to self-diagnose himself when he feels under the weather.
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Yet when he catches his classmate and next-door neighbor (Maddie Ziegler — yes, the girl from all the Sia videos) getting abused and/or molested by her police-commissioner stepfather (Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris), this whiz kid never bothers to buy or use the obvious tech to document the crime. After getting nowhere with the authorities and his school principal, instead of getting a camera and catching the bastard red-handed, Henry instead comes up with an elaborate plan to assassinate the commissioner. For this mission, he ropes in his mom (Naomi Watts), who has witnessed with her own eyes the abuse this man inflicts on the girl.
But none of the mess that follows would happen if either of them had picked up a video camera. I mean, every smartphone has one. (Laptops and earbuds are seen in this movie, so I’m assuming it’s set in contemporary times.) All they have to do is point and shoot. The mom wouldn’t have to go to a gun store and buy a sniper rifle with a night-vision scope. (She does have some practice shooting people — she usually unwinds after work by playing Gears of War on the Xbox.) Henry even has a camera, but it’s one of those old-school Polaroids. Along with being super-intelligent, Henry is something of a hipster Luddite, calling his stockbroker on pay phones and laying out his plan on tape recorders.
While Henry has been touted in its publicity campaign as “the most original movie of the summer,” the story’s failure of basic technology demonstrates that it certainly isn’t the smartest. The story, by novelist and comic-book writer Gregg Hurwitz, seems more concerned with giving you major feels throughout — wrecking you one minute, making you giddy the next. (There’s a kiddie talent show near the end that’s one of the most adorably ridiculous things I’ve ever seen.) This is especially true when a big twist happens halfway through the movie, a shameless, needless attempt to tug at your goddamn heartstrings.
This movie is really just Colin Trevorrow — who went from directing the quirkalicious Safety Not Guaranteed to helming the multimillion-dollar Jurassic World — going back to his indie roots before he directs the Jurassic World sequel and then the ninth chapter in the Star Wars saga. As sweet as it is seeing him make a simple movie with a modest, sub–$10 million budget, The Book of Henry is just a lunkheaded tearjerker that you’ll wish was even half as smart as its allegedly gifted protagonist.