“We are not going to let this day get the better of us!”
What a title. At the dawn of seemingly another ordinary day, Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) wakes up out of bed and immediately takes a fall after being awakened by a didgeridoo. Unfortunately for Alexander it gets much, much worse, from not getting his preferred county for a project to striking out with a crush. Though this misfortune seems to occur often, the ultimate gut punch for the young fella is his invisibility to those around him most—his family.
On the eve of his birthday , Alexander makes a wish. Maybe his father (Steve Carell), mother (Jennifer Garner), and siblings could understand him more if they got a taste of his daily misfortunes. Well the next day, the entire clan, sans Alex, gets a dark cloud hung over them. Much like what he goes though consistently, it is everyone else’s turn to have a terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad day.
After a heavy and prolonged period of drinking, a minor detox phase is needed. Really, it is no different for movie viewing. Between all of the heavy, Oscar-focused fare and horror/hyper-mature offerings especially during this time of year, something light is needed to just kick back on, whether alone or with the family. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is that type of movie, surprisingly.
The movie is actually based on a 32 page children’s book over 40 years old…so for all intents and purposes this is only really connected to its source material in name only. Looking at the trailer, this really did not look to high a high possibility of success, even with Steve Carell bringing his expertise here. For a variety of mainly basic reasons, most of the previously existing skepticism is quelled quickly.
First? Simply, the film is quick and painless. At only 81 minutes, Alexander and the Terrible has a lot of smarts to know not to overstay its welcome. There are no extra subplots, needless characters, or anything else that could give off the feeling of existing only to meet a runtime quota. Obviously, this leads to a predictable beginning and end, but who needs an intricate plot here? While not intricate plot-wise, heart is something present in the script, and it never feels contrived or overly sappy. At the core of this is a film about family, and the bond they share in times of distress. We have all been there with our families, and immediately, it is something that can be related to.
His character may not be the main one, but Steve Carell is still top-billed here, and he is still one of the better comic actors today. From his delivery to dialogue to perfect facial expressions, the man knows what is funny. He is perfectly cast not only for comedy, but when the script needs him to be a thoughtful and caring father of four, he delivers as well. Jennifer Garner appears in her element here, almost as if she isn’t acting but just playing herself as a matriarch of a fairly large family. That isn’t a negative at all, rather positive to be honest. Together, the two look and feel like your average heads of an American family.
Child actors can be hit and miss for yours truly. Oftentimes, a success in my book is for the actor(s) to merely not get on my nerves. For some reason after viewing the trailer I went into this one with vibes of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which features one of the more unlikeable protagonists in recent memory. Thankfully, the kids here are not grating or unlikeable, but actually enjoyable! The title character is easy to latch onto, and the kid playing him (Ed Oxenbould) flashes some solid acting chops for a youngster during the heartfelt moments. Those playing his siblings (Kerris Dorsey, Dylan Minnette) have genuinely funny scenes, and seem to possess natural propensity for laughs.
Like any comedy, laughs are most important. This likely isn’t a movie that will induce hysterical laughter, but it is consistent throughout with enough for every member to enjoy, even if the trailer gives away some bigger moments. In fact, it may cater too much to the older crowd in a few particular scenes. I’m sure that kids are growing up faster and faster, but to hear the male anatomical term just put out there so bluntly was a little jarring for a PG-rated movie. As a young adult it isn’t that big of a deal, but hearing and seeing these instances wasn’t something expected….
But it is probably just me sounding like an overly concerned parent (A parent I am not). Taking all of this into account, the key thing to know is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day isn’t as disappointing as it may have looked. Honestly, it serves as a pleasant, respectable, good, and not bad day at the movies.
Photo credits go to fandango.com, apnatimepass.com, and metacritic.com.
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