Movie Review ~ Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Alexander’s day begins with gum stuck in his hair, followed by more calamities. Though he finds little sympathy from his family and begins to wonder if bad things only happen to him, his mom, dad, brother, and sister all find themselves living through their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Stars: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey, Ed Oxenbould, Megan Mullally, Jennifer Coolidge, Bella Thorne

Director: Miguel Arteta

Rated: PG

Running Length: 81 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review: Can it really have taken this long for Judith Viorst’s 1972 children’s book to make it to the big screen?  After being adapted as an animated special for television and getting the musical stage treatment, the story of one ordinary boy’s extraordinary bad day has found its way to the cinematic masses courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

I wasn’t expecting much from the film, considering Disney’s live action efforts as of late have been iffy at best (I’m talking about you, Million Dollar Arm) so picture me grumbling as I went into a 10 am screening of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day with a theater full of screaming kids and parents as bleary eyed as I was.  I try to take my mood out of the equation but I’m only human and one grumpy mood could equal a less than positive review.

I may have gone into Alexander’s tale with my eyes at half mast and the attitude of a drenched cat but I emerged 81 minutes later a happy camper.  Forgiving a handful of sillier than necessary moments, this is one of the finest bits of family entertainment to come out in 2014, providing some nice laughs that aren’t at the expense of anyone and a good message about taking each day as it comes that speaks to viewers in every notch on the age spectrum.

Mop headed and possessing the most charming lisp since Winthrop Paroo in The Music Man, Ed Oxenbould is pitch perfect as our title character.  Though I’d argue that none of Alexander’s problems are worth complaining about (since he lives an upper class life in sunny California), there’s a real sense of earnest engagement on Oxenbould’s part, making it easy to sympathize with the young kid.

Screenwriter Rob Lieber has expanded upon Viorst’s 32 page book by adding a sibling, a day, and a twist of fate that sees Alexander benefiting from his family having a day equally as bad as his.  There’s the misprint on the book his mom (Jennifer Garner, Dallas Buyers Club) is promoting which leads to the film’s best laugh involving Dick Van Dyke, or his unemployed dad (Steve Carrell, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) interviewing for a job he may be too square for, or his sister’s sudden sickness that threatens her performance as Peter Pan, or his brother (Dylan Minnette, Prisoners) juggling a busy day with his demanding girlfriend (Bella Thorne, Blended).

All are fodder for comedic moments with varying degrees of success. Even the bits that go for cheap laughs manage not to offend because the rest of the movie is so full of good intentions.  At 81 minutes, it does feel oddly long but doesn’t overstay its welcome either.

Good live action family films are hard to come by but you can rest assured that if you venture into a theater playing this whatever day you’re having will be a little bit better.

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