This genuinely odd movie is a mix of many tones and styles, shifting wildly from offbeat family comedy to dying-kid weepie to dark thriller within the space of its 100-minute running time. When viewers meet young Henry, a movie whiz-kid in the Little Man Tate mold, he's putting in a few stock trades before his mom picks him and his brother up from school in the family's blue Volvo. OK, you think, this is going to be a quirky-sweet family-against-the-odds comedy, the sort that Wes Anderson might make. But no. After doing several whimsical and (intended to be) enchanting things like cheering up a just-bullied Peter by staging an indoor snowstorm with styrofoam and a fan, Peter suddenly falls ill -- and Susan discovers that he's formulated a plan to murder their next door neighbor, Glenn ... a plan she ultimately decides to carry out for him.
If that sounds darned odd, it is. There's a world in which this plot could work, but this isn't it. Everything about this movie rings false, from Henry's outrageously elaborate steampunk playhouse (he built it when he was what? 10, 9, 8?) to his (supposed to be) picturesque creations. A young boy blows styrofoam all over the top floor of his house, and everyone thinks that's just great? Who's going to clean that up? Did the person who wrote this script never sweep? Also, distressingly, Christina is given no identity or role other than that of being a lovely, distressed damsel, waiting passively for rescue. Portraying this young girl as a symbol and a quest rather than a person is an iffy, regressive choice that may well make parents uncomfortable -- but it's just one of the many things they'll be uncomfortable with if they choose to watch Book of Henry with their kids.