REVIEW: The Book of Henry

19 06 2017

Let’s be clear: Colin Trevorrow’s “The Book of Henry” is a strange, overstuffed movie. Its roughly 100 minute runtime manages to pack in as many traumatizing dramatic plot points as a season of network TV. I can imagine the pitch for Gregg Hurwitz’s script going something like a Stefon sketch. “This movie has everything: quirky families, a precocious prodigy, child abuse, brain tumors, premature death, a love story and a murder plot!”

Just one of its outlandish plot points would be enough to sustain a film of its length. Instead, we get one about every 15 minutes, leaving us no time to recover before the next one happens. “The Book of Henry” thus becomes unnecessarily strung out, which is a real shame as Hurwitz and Trevorrow do manage to capture some candor and earnestness with the story. Their good intentions get clouded out by how busy the film is, however.

In particular, a good portion of the film resonates when Jaden Lieberher’s titular character struggles with being helpless to enable action against injustice. “The Book of Henry” grasps the frustrating limitations of being a child, no matter how smart and well-adjusted you are. (Henry, by the way, is what I imagine the E-Trade baby would look like once he graduated from the crib.) Yet even this gets undermined when the term “child” gets trotted out as a form of dismissal in the climax. This is the film’s confusion in microcosm: a concerted effort to understand a complex problem sabotaged by the need for sensationalism. B-

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REVIEW: Marmaduke

13 06 2010

You don’t have to read my whole review as long as you take this away from it: “Marmaduke” is one of the worst movies I have ever seen, and you are truly stupid if you choose to waste a perfectly good 90 minutes of your life watching it.

Now that I have that very strong statement out of the way, you can either spend your time listening to me malign every big name involved in this movie or simply take my word for it.  I will be brutal and unsparing; this is the movie that will really bring out the critic in me.  I’ve been waiting to unleash my wrath on something terrible enough to deserve it.  So here it goes.

I have to admire the boldness of Lee Pace, Judy Greer, and William H. Macy who had the guts to show their faces in this movie.  They didn’t hide in the recording studio or inside the potentially lovable body of an animal.  They actually dared to be the human face of the movie, risking association with the movie for the rest of their careers.  These three ought to be sending the marketing people at Fox some very large gift baskets for not advertising “Marmaduke” very much, because the fact that it was such a low-key campaign may save their reputations from being forever tarnished.

You would think that Owen Wilson has enough sense to choose a movie that has some kind of substance.  But even if you don’t have much respect for Owen Wilson, you might think Keifer Sutherland does.  Or Emma Stone (Jules from “Superbad”).  Or George Lopez.  Or Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin).  Or Steve Coogan.  Or Fergie.  Or Marlon Wayans.  Or Sam Elliott.

Like this cavalcade of stars?  Guess what, each and every one of them chose a movie that doesn’t deserve to take a poop in their yards.  Honestly, if any of these big names had shown their faces in “Marmaduke,” they would be firing their agents and calling their real estate agent to find the coziest cave in Beverly Hills.  It’s always a shame to see actors take on material that doesn’t deserve them, and “Marmaduke” is like a tragedy for each of these stars.  None of them put any effort into making this giant heap of poop any better, as if the subtext of every line is, “We feel you; we know this movie sucks.”

And don’t even get me started on the non-existent plot.  My theory is that the director scrounged a bargain bin of kids movies and came to shooting with the idea to rip off any one of them that might have worked.  So for every groan and eye roll you get in “Marmaduke,” you get to say to yourself, “Oh, I liked that better when I saw it in (INSERT ANY KIDS MOVIE TITLE HERE).”  So, by all means, if you want to feel immeasurable frustration with the endless banality Hollywood feeds to children, go right ahead and waste your life watching “Marmaduke.”  As the late Gene Siskel used to say, “It’s your life, and you can’t get that time back.”  D- /