Review: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
PLOT: After having far too many bad days himself, twelve-year-old Alexander makes a wish the day before his birthday that his family will finally understand his plight. Once the sun comes up, he seemingly gets his wish and everybody except him seems to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
REVIEW: For nearly every single twelve-year-old there are days that just plain suck. This is especially true for the title character in ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY. Not unlike Molly Ringwald as Samantha Baker in SIXTEEN CANDLES, Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) seems to be having a very tough time with his big birthday bash only a day away. This unlucky preteen and his entire world is a mess. While his father Ben (Steve Carell) is ever optimistic even though he is out of work caring for the family, and his mother Kelly (Jennifer Garner) is enjoying a particularly successful career, Alexander feels like nobody understands his plight. Even his actress sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) and his popular brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette) seem to be enjoying their teenage years.
With all this frustration, Alexander feels forgotten and abandoned and makes a wish that everybody would understand what having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day feels like because of course nobody else knows what thats like. And guess what? His wish comes true. In fact, the only one seemingly having a good day is Alexander as his entire family seems to be suffering through awful situations, one after another. This is the story behind ALEXANDER and at times, this PG rated family flick is a pleasant little excursion. Based on the popular childrens book by Judith Viorst, this is a sort of sweet pre-teen fairy tale. And with its very slim 81 minute running time, its not terrible. Its not even horrible. Yet all this family friendly flick is it is just okay.
Directed by Miquel Arteta (THE GOOD GIRL, YOUTH IN REVOLT), there is a very easy sensibility here. It is a briskly paced and lighthearted comedy that is pretty tame by todays standards. In fact, there are even a handful of moments that are actually funny. However, this may simply be the fact that both Garner and Carell are just really good at this sort of humor. Occasionally ALEXANDER hits the mark with a couple of laugh-out-loud moments such as a fun cameo from Dick van Dyke at a bookstore reading from a childrens book that contains an unfortunate misprint. Its a dumb joke, but still surprisingly effective. As Arteta builds to the inevitable and predictable climax, he is generally able to find a balance between the goofy childlike humor and the more touching, sentimental moments.
While Ive not read the source material, the film is certainly geared towards a younger crowd. Playing it safe, and not relying on fart jokes, the adapted screenplay by Rob Lieber has a few bright spots. Older brother Anthonys driving test is a modern day nightmare, and it features a very funny cameo from Jennifer Coolidge. However the bizarre addition of male strippers at a twelve-year-old boy's birthday party was a little odd. In fact, many of the jokes feel a bit uninspired including a school production of Peter Pan gone wrong. Were the parents this negligent in the books? Yes, this is all part of the joke but after a while it was damn near frustrating watching them make mistake after mistake after mistake.
While the story may have been a little silly, it helped that the cast is so darn amiable. As the put upon youth Alexander, Ed Oxenbould is able to carry this flick admirably. As well both Dylan Minnette and Kerris Dorsey dont come across nearly as mean and awful as they could have. Even the baby manages to steal a couple of scenes. As far as the parents, both Carell and Garner are charming and very amusing together. ALEXANDER is a sweet if a little too heavy on the saccharine and pleasant family that finds they are having a really terrible, horrible yeah you get it. The story is dumb, but it is short enough to not feel too trapped taking your kids to the movies.
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