Tag Archives: Dean Norris

“The Book of Henry”



Whatever your expectations are for the unclassifiable “The Book of Henry,” I guarantee they won’t be fully realized. I’ve watched a lot of strange movies over my lifetime but I’m not really sure what I want to say about this one because it’s so bizarre. It’s without a doubt a huge misfire, but it’s also like a train wreck that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t pry your eyes away.

The talented Colin Trevorrow directs this story of child prodigy Henry (Jaeden Lieberher), his needy and childlike single mother Susan (Naomi Watts), his little brother Peter (Jacob Tremblay), and troubled neighbor Christina (Maddie Ziegler). When Henry starts to believe that Christina is being abused by her stepfather (Dean Norris), he comes up with a rescue plan and begins documenting the instructions in a red notebook. To explain much more would be giving away the biggest surprise elements of the outlandish plot.

The movie has a forced sentimentality that lends no favors to its implausible and contrived story. It’s heavy-handed on all levels and is strangely both utterly compelling and completely forgettable. It’s sort of a movie for kids that way to dark for children but filled with too many plot holes for rational adults. I cannot tell you who the audience is for this. It’s a family tragi-drama that morphs into an oddly familiar mystery and suspense thriller, a tale of vigilante justice, terminal illness, child abuse, brotherly love, and murder.

To top if off, Henry isn’t likeable in the least. He’s a smug little jerk and the worst kind of know-it-all. (If you want to see a good movie about a precocious child prodigy, check out the fabulous “Gifted“). Everything in the movie is spelled out (no, it’s literally spelled out in Henry’s notebook) and the emotional manipulation reaches new heights. It’s a story that centers around kids but by the end it becomes quite condescending to the under 12 set — just one of the film’s many frustrating contradictions.

If the abrupt genre shifts aren’t enough to make you scream, then the tepid performances certainly will. The superstar of this movie is Tremblay, riding high off his role in “Room.” Watts and Norris are simply going through the motions, and Lieberher is astonishingly one-note when he needs to be playing a symphony.

I applaud Trevorrow for taking such a risk with this project, but this one tries and spectacularly fails.

“Fist Fight”



“Fist Fight” is one of those movies that’s not exactly great, not exactly awful, but settles comfortably in the “just good enough” category like a straight “C” student. It’s a little lazy in its storytelling and bouts of crude sexual comedy, but the movie tries really hard — making it good for more than a few hearty laughs from the comedic strengths of its two remarkably charismatic leads.

When tough history teacher Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube) accuses mousy English teacher Mr. Campbell (Charlie Day) of getting him fired on the last day of school, he challenges the man to an old fashioned fist fight in the parking lot after school. It’s “Three O’Clock High” but with teachers and a Millennial social media sensibility (#teacherfight).

There are some really funny moments leading up to the big brawl, courtesy of a menagerie of eccentric colleagues. There’s an oddball coach (Tracy Morgan), stressed out principal (Dean Norris), indifferent security guard (Kumail Nanjiani), unhinged French teacher (Christina Hendricks), and a wayward and wildly inappropriate guidance counselor (the scene-stealing Jillian Bell with her dry, deadpan style on full, glorious display here).

Teachers in particular will probably get a real kick out of this one because there are loads of educator jokes that are universally funny but will take on an extra special meaning to those in the profession. Yes, we do eventually get to see the final showdown but with all its talk of violence and promises of bloodshed, the film has a sweet (and pro-education) ending.

No doubt this film could’ve been funnier, especially with such a simple yet amusing premise, but its high points are entertaining and amusing enough for a mild recommendation.