RARELY has a film title been more fitting than Nick Moore’s woefully misjudged caper based on the mischievous character created by author Francesca Simon.
Horrendous Henry would be closer to the truth, because it’s hard to find any joy in this explosion of garish colour, slapstick and scenery-chewing that passes for family entertainment.
Danny De Vito’s magnificent rendering of Roald Dahl’s Matilda seems to be an inspiration, but neither the script nor the direction are sufficiently elegant to chart the same ebbs and flows between uproarious and dark comedy.
Instead, the film starts off silly and becomes increasingly dull and soulless, culminating in an excruciating TV game show presided over by Dick & Dom at their most buffoonish and grating.
The film’s sense of humour trades in groans of disgust. Thus, the eponymous hero must eat a bowl of putrid, bubbling vegetable stew and Henry’s beleaguered father inadvertently devours a leftover sandwich drenched in baby vomit.
The troublesome child at the centre of the destruction is Henry (Theo Stevenson), a lazy boy with dreams of pop stardom, while his goody-two-shoes brother Perfect Peter (Ross Marron) is a model student for teacher Miss Lovely (Parminder Nagra).
At school, Henry and his mates, known as The Purple Hand Gang, clash with Moody Margaret and her coterie and fall foul of form tutor Miss Battle-Axe (Anjelica Huston).
A series of pranks threatens the future of the school and Henry grimly faces the prospect of attending the local private one run by Vic Van Wrinkle (Richard E Grant), where his rebellious behaviour will not be tolerated.
If only Henry and chums could win the upcoming talent contest and draw attention to the school’s plight.
The film is a long slog, even at 92 minutes. The cast has apparently been directed to over-act wildly with as much volume as possible.
Huston chirrups every line with a shrill Scottish accent and Grant plays the pantomime villain, while Stevenson has a certain roguish charm as the pint-sized tearaway.
“Gonna be a rock star, no need to go to school!” he barks, but this film won’t bring him the success he craves.