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Book of Henry.jpg

Let Us Gather Together and Appreciate Just How Brutal 'The Book of Henry' Reviews Are

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | June 15, 2017 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | June 15, 2017 |

Whether he likes it or not — and by the sounds of it, he really resents it — Colin Trevorrow has become the unofficial symbol for white male privilege in Hollywood who isn’t called Max Landis. After making a respectable splash on the indie scene with his minor hit Safety Not Guaranteed, the director was spotted by Brad Bird, who told Stephen Spielberg that he reminded him of himself. Cue the Jurassic World gig, signalling one the industry’s more glaring examples of supporting a white male in a way the rest of us would never get. Trevorrow himself admitted that directing the $150m Summer tent-pole sequel to one of the most influential films of all time was akin to graduate school, where he was able to learn on the job, which didn’t endear him to many. Cue Jurassic World, a grossly cynical and perfunctorily shot piece of “good enough” work that reduces women to sobbing props and dino fodder while pretending its overt product placement is satire, making $1.6bn, and Trevorrow landing the Star Wars gig. In between that, he worked hard to pretend meritocracy exists, that women didn’t get opportunities like him because they preferred to keep their indie integrity, and The Book of Henry.

Written by author Gregg Hurwitz, the warning signs of this inevitable flop were evident from the moment the release date was moved from September 2016 to June 2017. The initial trailer added further confusion to the plate, with its bizarre tonal mix of saccharine family drama and murder revenge thriller. And now, the embargo has been lifted. Guess what? It’s terrible! I take no joy in this. Much. But let us gather together and appreciate just how bad this film is. You know, Disney, it’s not too late to replace Trevorrow with literally anyone else?

Some of these reviews contain big spoilers, so tread cautiously if this is a film you do want to see.

Pajiba (Kristy Puchko):

“This movie is not only ungodly long, astoundingly senseless, and emotionally stunted, but also weirdly sexist… Book of Henry will unfurl as if Spielberg were a sociopath, unconnected to empathy and unclear on what wonder really is… This story shows such a shocking misunderstanding of human emotions that you might suspect it was made from a robot that just upgraded from playing chess to tone-deaf Twitter botting. It’s so insipid and punishing and deplorable that I feel I’m owed hazard pay for enduring it.

Austin Chronicle (Josh Kupecki):

“What then, to make of The Book of Henry, one of the most ill-conceived films I have seen in recent memory… At the point in the film where Watts’ Susan is running through the forest with a sniper rifle, I was out. The Book of Henry is the most misguided film since the 2003 Gary Oldman abomination Tiptoes. Trevorrow is slated to helm an upcoming Star Wars film, so y’all have fun with that.”

Slant Magazine (Keith Watson):

Schmaltzy, manipulative, and tonally schizophrenic, The Book of Henry is such a monumentally misguided venture that it ends up being oddly, if unintentionally, compelling… It’s the final gallingly cynical move in a film that consistently attempts to pass off sentimentalism as profundity.”

Variety (Owen Gleiberman):

“There’s the kind of bad movie that just sits there, unfolding with grimly predictable monotony. Then there’s the kind where the badness expands and metastasizes, taking on a jaw-dropping life of its own, pushing through to ever-higher levels of garishness. “The Book of Henry,” directed by Colin Trevorrow from Gregg Hurwitz’s script, is of the latter, you’ve-got-to-see-it-to-disbelieve-it variety.”

Boston Globe (Ty Burr):

“”The Book of Henry” tugs on your heartstrings like a cable technician yanking a stubborn wire through a wall. Accordingly, it is completely insane. The plot proceeds from the charming to the manipulative to the shameless to the demented in gentle steps that may lull some audiences the way a frog can be boiled to death by degrees. Others may watch this movie through their fingers, suspended in the delight that can attend a truly wrongheaded movie.”

Hollywood Reporter (John DeFore):

“Trevorrow went out on some limbs also in his first feature, Safety Not Guaranteed. There, though, he was making a Sundance-ready indie with actors who knew their way around the intersection of ironic quirks and real soul-searching. Here, the idiom of the wholesome family film makes no room for the cheap caper-flick stuff Hurwitz wants to sell us. And the compounding coincidences he requires in order to deliver a happy ending are almost disgustingly dishonest.”

Screen Daily (Tim Grierson):

“A nervy, wilfully preposterous study of motherhood and loss, The Book Of Henry recklessly shifts between tones and genres, never predictably but rarely satisfyingly… Few films aspire to be both a mawkish tearjerker and a Hitchcockian thriller, and The Book Of Henry makes a pretty convincing case why more shouldn’t.

The Film Stage (Daniel Schindel):

Watching The Book of Henry feels like being gaslit. You want to yell at the screen “This is absurd! Henry’s recorded instructions for Susan predict when she’ll turn the wrong way down the street! Is there going to be any acknowledgement of how insane this is?!” while the movie calmly insists that this is all perfectly natural. That kind of rubbernecking-a-car-crash feeling is the only possible reason to recommend the film, if you’re into that, for whatever reason. Going forward, Colin Trevorrow hopefully won’t be put in charge of anything too impor — oh, Jesus, that’s right.

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Kayleigh is a features writer for Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter or listen to her podcast, The Hollywood Read.