Disney's heartwarming comedy will have your entire family laughing out loud. Based on the best-selling book, it follows the exploits of Alexander as he experiences the most terrible and horrible day of his young life and wonders if bad things only happen to him. But he discovers he's not alone when his dad (Steve Carell), mom (Jennifer Garner) and family live through their own terrible - and hilarious - day. It will tickle everyone's funny bone, and warm their hearts as they discover how even on rotten days, families can grow closer. (from Walt Disney Pictures)
To be honest, I'm not sure how I missed this book as a kid. Considering how I certainly had my fair share of terrible, horrible, etc days, you'd think this book would have come across my path at some point along the way. Regardless, this little kids book, born out of one real-life kid's fair share of "very bad days," has made its way to the big screen. And with a pretty impressive cast, Disney gives us (deep breath, everyone): Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
In the film, Alexander is your typical underdog. He's not the most popular kid in school (that appears to be some unrealistically pseudo-hip trendy kid, but hey, I'm probably sorely out of the loop in that department), but he's a truly good kid that just can't seem to get a break. To make matters worse, on the eve of his twelfth birthday, he nearly burns down the science room, is forgotten at school, and even his best friend has decided to go to the popular kid's birthday party instead of his--which, by the way, is being held about a week too early, totally torpedoing Alexander's actual birthday. Add the fact that he did a faceplant in his front yard in front of his crush and you've got an all-around very bad day. Meanwhile, Alexander's parents, older sister and older brother seem to have everything they've ever wanted and always have things go their way... which leads Alexander to pull a Liar Liar and makes a wish (while babysitting a painfully adorable guinea pig) that his family could have a bad day to understand what he's going through. The result, well, is the bulk of the film.
Once the rest of the Coopers awake on Alexander's birthday--late--to absolute chaos, the film really takes off. Of course their mishaps are unfortunate, but it's also quite amusing, and you can't help but sit back and enjoy the nuttiness that unfolds. Without spoiling too much, things just progress from bad to worse for all of the Coopers, as things start to turn around for once for Alexander. But the moral of the story, which was highlighted in the film's trailer, is that you have to endure the bad days to really appreciate the good ones. And, as corny as that sounds, it's pretty true, and it's a life lesson kids can really cling to and learn from.
The cast of Alexander... is pretty good. I'm a Steve Carell fan myself, ever since Bruce Almighty and the first Anchorman film, but my fandom was cemented by his 7-season stint on the American version of The Office. Here, Carell plays a sort of family man version of Michael Scott, but a little less rude and a bit more positive (but Michael was really idealistic, too, as is Ben here). Still, he plays it like a similar character and it works for the most part (it's a hard sell to buy him as a brilliant scientist, but it's fine for this kind of movie). Jennifer Garner is good as a working mom in the publishing business, and it's especially fun when she gets frazzled and worked up. Ed Oxenbould plays the perfect dorky little kid to feel sorry for with Alexander (and I feel kinda sorry for Ed who fits the character so well), while his siblings, played by Dylan Minnette and Kerris Dorsey, do a pretty fair job playing off of him. There's also a surprise cameo and familiar face from a classic Disney film that Garner shares some scenes with, but I won't ruin that here.
While the movie may feel a bit predictable or even formulaic, it's a charming little film that hits most of the right notes to get its point across. It's entertaining and sweet, even if it takes a little bit to get going at the beginning. Also, it's surprisingly not even an hour and a half in length, but that works to its benefit as it doesn't overstay its welcome and never feels overlong. It keeps the pace moving fairly quickly, without feeling like you're watching it on fast-forward either.
The content is definitely PG-rated, with some mild language, and at least one awkward situation. At the start of the bad day for the Coopers, Garner's mom character, Kelly, walks in on her teenage son Anthony in the bathroom. Both scream and she backs out of the bathroom, closing the door. Later, they're all piled into the family van with Anthony driving and she puts her hand on his leg and tells him to drive faster. He pauses and says "Mom... Do you mind?" and she gets all defensive, asking "What? Because of this morning? It's not the first time I've seen your penis, Anthony!" And the different family members go around the car asking about it to the point where Kelly exclaims, "I've every penis in this car!" And Carell's Ben calmly repeats with a blank stare, "Every penis." It's his delivery that warranted a laugh, but I can bet this would be a pretty awkward scene to watch with some family members. The language otherwise isn't too bad, with a use or two of "crap," a handful of "sucks," and one use of "boobs" (when classmates are making fun of a goofy photo of Alexander). There's also an awkward joke that might go over some kids' heads when Ben accidentally hires three male strippers who he thought were just authentic Australian entertainers. As they start their dance, he realizes what's happening and shouts to them "No! No! PG!!!", which they acknowledge (and therefore, don't do anything vulgar). Lastly, while there's lots of comedic destruction, we see Emily Cooper throw up at least twice in the film, with projectile vomit onto Ben at one point. Those sensitive to visual vomit gags won't be too keen on that.
Overall, if you're a big fan of the cast or enjoy family comedies, you really can't go wrong with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. There are a few things to take note of before seeing it (depending on the audience, I suppose), but it's otherwise a pretty enjoyable film. While it isn't one of the best family flicks like it, it's certainly one of the better non-animated ones I've seen in a while.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 2/8/15)
Alexander... In Real Life (5:18) - The author of the original 1972 book, Judith Viorst, talks about how the book had been inspired by her own son, Alexander, and his experiences. And the real life, now adult, Alexander reflects on it here as well. Judith explains that she wanted to convey to kids of all ages that we ALL have bad days.
Snappy Crocs and Punchy Roos: The Australian Outback Yard Party (7:12) - This is a featurette about how they filmed the party at a house in California, made to look like it's set in Pasadena (so they added additional shrubbery and fake house facades in the background!). They talk about using the live animals for the sequence and show some B-Roll footage on set, and how they used an alligator for a crocodile because it's safer. We also learn that, while Alexander, the character, is obsessed with Australia, the actor who played him, Ed Oxenbould, is actually from Australia (and has a thick accent in real life)!
Walkabout: A Video Diary (6:15) - Ed Oxenbould made a home movie of his experiences on the set and around the production crews. This is a little bit of Ed's own footage he shot, walking back stage of the sets, talking to crew, visiting various departments, etc.
And The Delightful, Magnificent, Very Good Bloopers (3:34) - This blooper reel is a collection of goofing off on set, scenes being messed up, etc. Carell's outtakes are some of the best parts (Two words: "fake baby"). And then there's Garner dancing with the cameo guest I mentioned earlier that's pretty priceless.
"Hurricane" by The Vamps Music Video (3:59) - I know nothing about "The Vamps," but they look like a Disney teen band and this is a video for their song where they're waking up on a cartoony house set and then playing their instruments in the back yard of a house, while scenes from the movie are mixed in.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 2/8/15)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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