Everything important you need to know about Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is right there in the title. It’s a long one, but it’s good. It’s obvious it doesn’t take itself seriously, that the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day will only last as long as the movie’s duration will allow. That’s good news for everybody.
I actually enjoyed this movie. I didn’t think I would. The key to its success is in its cast; not a single member thinks he or she is above the material. Even Jennifer Garner as the worrisome matriarch fine tunes her performance so diligently she lands on the right note every time. It’s as if everyone involved in the production has an innate understanding of the film’s trajectory and works hand-in-hand to get it there. It’s a sweet thing to do, considering the crap the plot puts the cast through.
I also really appreciated the direction chosen by the film’s humour. It’s an American movie, based on an American story written by Judith Viorst, so of course it’s going to have scatological jokes. But what a relief it was, even for a kids’ movie, to not see faecal matter in any physical form. The only time it’s referenced is in one of the movie’s funnier scenes, where an unfortunate typo on a children’s book makes Dick Van Dyke look like a pedophile who’s into some very weird daytime activities. The kids will laugh at the funny word. The parents will laugh at the word’s implications.
Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) is the third child in the Cooper family. For reasons known only to the heavens he is an unlucky kid who has lived through what we assume has been eleven years of grave misfortune. Want to know how bad it’s gotten? He plans to throw a great party for his twelfth birthday by inviting his entire level. It all goes according to plan when — what? The popular kid in school is having an even greater party on the same night? But his birthday’s not for another week! Now no one’s scheduled to turn up. Not even Alexander’s best friend.
What’s worse, no one in his family stops to take notice. In a huff he makes himself a birthday cake on the stroke of midnight and wishes that for once his family would know what it’s like to experience a bad day.
The next morning his prima donna sister (Kerris Dorsey) is down with a horrible cold on the day of her Peter Pan stage play premiere. His older brother (Dylan Minnette), who is all pumped up for prom with the hottest chick in school (Bella Thorne), discovers a nasty zit on his forehead. His dad (Steve Carell) attends a couple of ill-fated job interviews, and his mother (Garner) finds out she’s responsible for the quick turnaround of Dick Van Dyke’s career. That’s just the start. Alexander then plunges headfirst into a series of catastrophic scenarios that turn a bad day into a terrible, horrible, no good one. What’s reassuring about this is the way the scenarios follow each other in a kind of maniacal systematic order. One thing leads to another. The screenplay doesn’t throw in random gags just to get cheap laughs. Every joke follows a logical routine, and that’s what makes them funny.
Ultimately it’s the cast that pulls the material together. There’s a fine message here for the children, and an even finer one for adults who’ve lost the ability to find solace in family. The ending is predictable, sure, but it’s not tacked on and is, dare I say it, moving in its own way. Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a sweet, pleasant family film, and it doesn’t hurt that it succeeds at getting a few laughs.
Best Moment | Nope.
Worst Moment | The kangaroo kick. Come on.