For any of my North American readers who might be interested, this flick is getting a theatrical release in the States and Canada on December 22 this year. Assuming the world hasn’t ended by then…
Good cast. Less good script.
Horrid Henry’s school is being threatened with closure on the recommendation of the school inspectors. Since Henry doesn’t like school, you would think this might come as a relief. However, when the alternative is Vic Van Wrinkle’s Brick House Prep School, little old Ashton Primary looks more and more appealing. Henry must team up with his biggest enemies – Moody Margaret and his own little brother Perfect Peter – to save Ashton Primary and expose the conspiracy behind the closure. Lots of screaming children ensues.
What links Horrid Henry: The Movie and Takeshi Kitano’s Zatoichi? I’ll tell you later. How this low-budget British kids’ film managed to get Anjelica Houston in a starring role, I will never know. But there she is, classing up the joint even under a huge latex nose and a Scottish accent (doing her best Robin Williams impression perhaps?) as Henry’s teacher Miss Boudicca Battle-Axe. Actually, never mind how they got Anjelica Houston. The bigger question is why? I mean really, if you were casting a late-middle-aged Scottish primary school teacher for Britain’s first shot-in-3D kids’ film, would Anjelica Houston be the first name on your list? Starring alongside Ms Houston, we also get Richard E. Grant as Van Wrinkle, ER’s very own Parminder Nagra as another teacher named Miss Lovely and Kimberley Walsh from Girls Aloud as Henry’s cousin Polly. The kid who plays Henry himself is Theo Stevenson, previously best known for getting shot in the head in church by Colin Farrell. Now that was a good movie.
Unfortunately even a cast of this calibre cannot save the film from anything more than mediocrity. If you’re nine years old you may feel differently, but this is not going to be a crossover hit. As in the series of books by Francesca Simon, everyone has an alliterative nickname that tells you everything you need to know about them in one word. This is also the sum total of character development that you’re going to see here. Maybe the producers threw too much money at the casting director and didn’t have enough left in the budget to give the script a polish. That’s a real shame actually, and I’ll tell you why: aside from one or two moments, the child actors all seem quite impressive. None of them are what you would call naturalistic, but the world of Horrid Henry is a bit of a heightened reality anyway so that exuberance doesn’t seem out of place necessarily. The adults are all surprisingly game for this carry-on too, particularly Grant and Houston. This movie feels like it could have been a really good flick, but it comes up as less than the sum of its parts.
This doesn’t feel like a cinema-release film. The camerawork is daytime kids’ TV level; even the picture quality looks like it’s better suited to the electric babysitter instead of a silver screen event. If I didn’t know better I might have assumed that this was actually a pilot, or a full-length special episode of a long-running series. If that had been the case, the result might have been sufficient, but as a stand-alone feature film, Horrid Henry is a disappointment.
Henry gets a D from me. Must try harder.
Wait, I nearly forgot. What links Horrid Henry: The Movie and Zatoichi? The cast’s formation dancing while the end credits roll. That wasn’t really worth the build-up at all, was it? Sorry.