Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: June 16, 2017 Released by: Focus Features
A reunion of crowd-pleaser St. Vincent co-stars Naomi Watts and Jaeden Lieberher turns out to be beneficial for Colin Trevorrow's suburban drama The Book of Henry that is, by turns, sentimental and affecting. But, it is probably more provocative and interpretative than the amusing Bill Murray starrer.
Watts's waitressing single mom, Susan Carpenter of two - the eponymous precocious (even vigilantly family oriented) 11-year-old (Lieberher) and 8-year-old Peter (Jacob Tremblay, wonderful as Jack in the revelatory, riveting Room); displays insecurity and is crucial to a plan set out by the former to help a sweet next-door neighbor Christina (Maddie Ziegler). Which is where the moniker figures in.
Turns out Christina has a physically imposing stepfather in Glenn (Dean Norris) whose police commissioner status provides much leverage. More than the inconclusive will be needed to put a stranglehold on this struggle by a committed son and mother. Susan has an upfront colleague in Sheila, endowed with spunk by Sarah Silverman (I Smile Back, Wreck-It Ralph).
Trevorrow (writer of huge hit Jurassic World) may not surprise with the kind of panache he did with Aubrey Plaza in Safety Not Guaranteed but sensitively touches on societal issues when it comes to disconnect and the disaffected. It's clear that Lieberher (so oddly riveting in Midnight Special) responds to the material in an altruistic way that makes his Henry very engaging. Watts (The Impossible) offers a subdued pleasure to a mother who is trying to be the best parent she can and her expressiveness at times goes a long way.
This Book may not be that spiffy cinematically or narratively, but being in the presence of a doughty Henry leaves little doubt that the heart will be tugged not so ham-fisted.
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