RARELY has a film title been more fitting than Nick Moore’s woefully misjudged caper based on the mischievous character created by award-winning author, Francesca Simon.
Horrendous Henry would be closer to the disappointing 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 DeVito’s magnificent rendering of Roald Dahl’s Matilda seems to be an inspiration but neither Lucinda Whiteley’s script nor Moore’s direction are sufficiently elegant to chart the same ebbs and flows between uproarious and dark comedy.
Instead, Horrid Henry: The Movie 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 from the school canteen and Henry’s beleaguered father returns home from work and 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, who runs rings around his Mum (Siobhan Hayes) and Dad (Mathew Horne).
While Henry wreaks havoc, his annoying, goody-two-shoes brother Perfect Peter (Ross Marron) does everything he is told and is a model student for teacher Miss Lovely (Parminder Nagra).
At school, Henry and his mates, collectively known as The Purple Hand Gang, clash with Moody Margaret (Scarlett Stitt) and her coterie and invariably fall foul of their form tutor, Miss Battle-Axe (Anjelica Huston).
A series of pranks in front of two school inspectors threatens the future of Ashdown Primary School and its long-suffering headmistress Miss Oddbod (Rebecca Front).
So Henry grimly faces the prospect of attending the local private school run by Vic Van Wrinkle (Richard E Grant), where his rebellious behaviour will not be tolerated.
If only Henry and his chums could win the upcoming talent contest and draw attention to the school’s plight.
Horrid Henry: The Movie is a long slog, even at 92 minutes.
Moore has apparently directed his cast to over-act wildly with as much volume as possible.
Huston chirrups every line wide-eyed with a shrill Scottish accent, Grant cajoles boos and hisses as the pantomime villain, and Noel Fielding camps its up briefly as rock musician Ed Banger, the head judge of the talent contest.
Stevenson has a certain roguish charm as the pint-sized tearaway, singing and rapping in the musical dream sequences.
“Gonna be a rock star, no need to go to school!” he barks, enforcing the notion that celebrity not education is the path to lasting fulfilment.
Moore’s film won’t bring him the success he craves.
By Damon Smith
:: NO SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 3/10
Released: July 29 (UK & Ireland) (U, 92 mins)