Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Director: Miguel Arteta Writer(s): Rob Lieber, Judith Viorst Cast: Jennifer Garner, Steve Carell, Ed Oxenbold, Kerris Dorsey, Dylan Minnette, Bella Thorne, Jennifer Coolidge, Burn Gorman, Megan Mullally and Dick Van Dyke.
It’s not the easiest of titles but it certainly does what it says on the tin, and as far as family movies go, this is definitely a good one. In fact it’s probably the best family film that isn’t an animation, to grace the screens in the last decade or so…I’m not kidding. Think about it – a lighthearted film for the whole family to really enjoy – kind of ceased somewhere after Jumanji and before the Harry Potter franchise. Night at the Museum, the odd Cheaper by the Dozen reboot just don’t attain the same measure of solidarity and genuine warm feeling of say, Home Alone, Mrs Doubtfire etc… basically before technology ripped apart the average happy family, and showered every member with too much choice.
In ATHNGVBD … or let’s just call it Alexander’s Very Bad Day, we meet the quintessential endearing movie family, featuring all the conventional figures with the slight but not inoffensive modifications: stay at home Dad Ben (Steve Carell); hard-pressed working mother Kelly (Jennifer Garner); Baby Trevor; aspiring actress daughter Emily and handsome teen son Anthony (Kerris Dorsey and Dylan Minnette) and then there’s Alexander… the awkward pre-teen with the transcending humour of a Home Alone Macaulay Culkin and a similar isolated outlook on life within his otherwise happy family.
Adapted from the popular 1970s children’s book of the same name, it’s a scene after scene of set-ups and punch lines. After a terrible day, 12 year-old Alexander inadvertently wishes that for one day, the happy members of his family experience misgivings of life . When the sun comes up, everything is looking rosy for Alexander, not so much for the rest of the clan. Hard-pressed working mother has a huge mishap at work, involving the legend himself, Dick Van Dyke; unemployed Dad is late for an interview; baby gets green ink all over his cute face; Emily comes down with flu right before her stage production and Anthony is losing the love of his life (Bella Thorne) on what could be the most important day of his life: Prom.
Complete with plenty of silly, embarrassing scenarios for the kids and harmless innuendos and satirical commentary for Adults to enjoy, it’s a film for all. Carell, though a muted version from previous slapstick comedies, is still ridiculous and Garner more than matches him in humour and slapstick. Both work in perfect tandem with the rest of the oddball family cast (Ed Oxenbold deserves props as the vehicle and titular character) to highlight a genuinely nice message of togetherness. I will say this though, the last 10 minutes are a little too try-hard and off premise. A CGI-Kangaroo chase threatens to plunge an adequate family film into the Adam Sandler black hole of sheer nonsense. A mediocre ending to an otherwise enjoyable, fun film.