Monday, April 16, 2018

Save the Last Interpretive Dance



When the world seems to make a universal decision that a mid-budget studio genre film is so bad that its hot young director is fired from the unrelated bigger budget studio film he's about to make, you can bet my HBO subscription that I'm going to eventually watch it.

Quick Plot: Meet the Carpenters, a strange little family that functions in ways no human beings typically do. Single mom Susan (Naomi Watts, who is incapable of giving a bad performance even when placed in an unreasonably bad movie) works as a waitress at a '50s style ice cream shop/diner that gets a ridiculous amount of customers on weekday mornings. When not playing video games or the ukulele, Susan enjoys getting drunk with BFF Sarah Silverman (who styles herself like Amy Winehouse and flirts with teenagers like any normal human being), 



You might be concerned that Susan's two sons are in irresponsible hands, but fear not: 11-year-old Henry (Jaeden Lieberher of It) is an unearthly intelligent little boy who knows everything about everything, be it financial investments, building Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions that put Pee-Wee Herman to shame, or meticulously planning the murder of a police officer.



Yes, that's a thing. See, all that brainpower seems to literally be hurting poor Henry's brain, which develops some kind of lethal tumor. Thankfully, he's given just enough time in the hospital to get his family (which also includes adorable younger brother Peter, played by Room's Jacob Tremblay)'s affairs in order.



This includes laying out a plan for Susan to murder Walter White's brother-in-law.


Henry's biggest regret in his short life is that he's unable to protect Christina, his classmate who lives next door and is being abused by her stepfather Glen (Dean Norris). Thankfully, he's scoped out the neighborhood carefully enough to lay out the perfect 45-minute murder plan for mom to carry out during Peter's and Christina's upcoming school talent show.



Guys, this is a weird, weird movie.

The Book of Henry didn't make much of a killing at the box office, but it likely killed a good deal of momentum in director Colin Treverrow's career. Hot off the success of Jurassic World, Treverrow was tapped to direct Episode IX in the Star Wars saga. Everything seemed to be in order until either script issues tore the production team or, possibly more believably, enough LucasFilm higher-ups witnessed the mess that is The Book of Henry.



Look, there have been plenty studio releases that rank lower than The Book of Henry in the quality department, but few that are quite as...odd. IMDB's only real illuminating trivia point claims the original script was more a black comedy, which makes sense considering the plot of this movie involves, you know, a 12-year-old boy drawing up plans for his childlike mother to murder their neighbor while his stepdaughter reveals his crimes to the school community via interpretive dance.


Yes, that happens. 

Part precocious child tale, part dead precocious child tragedy, and part complicated murder plan, The Book of Henry would be perfectly fine had it aired on Lifetime. Unfortunately for Treverrow (and really, everyone else involved and the audience) it came to theaters and expected people paying $10+ to watch it leave feeling satisfied. Considering how many Lifetime movies I've seen done better, that is almost criminal. 



High Points
I'm not being sarcastic: the cast of this movie truly does its best with whatever the hell it has been given

Low Notes
The fact that this movie has such good performances is ultimately the thing that hurts it the most, as you see crumbs of a decent story about grief amidst, you know, the movie about a 12-year-old arranging murder from his Tim Burton treehouse



Lessons Learned
Dodgeball isn't an Olympic sport...yet

Lee Pace is an incredibly tall and incredibly attractive human being


You have to watch tech stocks closer than the rest

You might think you're a prodigy, but you can't really prove it until you master one of the nation's few remaining payphones in 2017


Rent/Bury/Buy
The Book of Henry is currently on HBO Go, and let's face it: you should watch it. I mean, you shouldn't if you're one of those strange creatures who only looks for quality in their entertainment, but for the rest of us curious cats too dumb to know better, this is...something. 

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