The Book of Henry

Opening Friday, june 16

The Book of Henry raises several questions. What’s the kid from Room doing these days? What does Colin Trevorrow do between Jurassic Park sequels? Is this sort of work why Bobby Moynihan left Saturday Night Live? Did Gregg Hurwitz really write this?!

Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) is a precocious eleven-year-old who spends his days pining for the girl next door, Christina (Maddie Ziegler); protecting his little brother, Peter (Room‘s Jacob Tremblay), from bullies; and diversifying his family’s financial portfolio while his single mom, Susan (Naomi Watts), plays video games with her boozy BFF (Sarah Silverman). Henry becomes convinced that Christina’s stepfather (Breaking Bad‘s Dean Norris), the town’s police commissioner, is abusing her. He plays Encyclopedia Brown, scribbling his findings in a red leather journal. After he’s struck with terminal brain cancer, he bequeaths to Susan his notebook and cassettes, which contain his grim conclusion on how to save Christina.

This glorified TV thriller spends its latter half steeped in Henry’s clairvoyant recordings, all in the service of an ultimately useless solution. Instead of a binder full of convoluted musings, he should have just told his mom to train her camera phone on the neighbor’s upstairs window and press “send.” Instead, crime novelist Hurwitz passes the time with a diversionary subplot before a denouement at a school talent show that could have occurred thirty minutes earlier. The Book of Henry is a blatant, bona fide tearjerker. Like the Rube Goldberg machines Henry constructs, his death supposedly sets into motion a chain of events that ends with better lives for his loved ones. But the only thing it triggers that couldn’t have happened otherwise is Susan finding love with Henry’s neurosurgeon (Lee Pace). Talk about bedside manner.