Disney’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” is a family comedy that floats right on the edge of average. There aren’t more than maybe two big laughs in the whole film, but I have to admit that it kept me smiling throughout. Its strength lies in its ability to tug at our heartstrings. Matter of fact, this can be so effective at times that you can’t help but fall in love with the characters and find yourself moderately enjoying the film, even if you aren’t going to love it.
“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” isn’t Terrible, Horrible, No Good or Very Bad
The story revolves around an 11-year-old Alexander as he experiences, what feels like the worst day of his young life. When Alexander tells his family about his disastrous day, he finds very little sympathy and begins to wonder if bad things only happen to him. As it turns out, the following day is Alexander’s birthday and he decides to make a birthday wish: maybe the rest of his family can experience a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Of course, like most birthday wishes in the world of movies, this one comes true.
Director Miguel Arteta’s influences are obvious, as the movie can sometimes feel like a John Hughes film from the 80’s. These were films that really relied heavily on how much you liked and related to the characters. Because of this, the saving grace for the film comes from its cast. Ed Oxenbould, who plays Alexander, is very likable as the lead. He’s surrounded by Dylan Minnette and Kerris Dorsey, who play his siblings in such a way that by the end of the film I found myself wishing they were my own brother and sister. Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner are especially well cast. Steve Carell is always at his best when he can interject some real heart and drama into his characters and this film gives him plenty of opportunities to shine in this way. Oh yeah, and who can forget the adorable Elise and Zoey Vargas who play the baby of the family.
The only weak link in the cast is Bella Thorne, who plays older brother Anthony’s girlfriend. To be honest though, we can’t fault her for this. Her character of Celia is written in a very one-dimensional way and it would have been nice to see her make some tough choices as the story played out.
The ultimate problem with the film lies in its lack of reach. As things go wrong for the different family members the humor seems to reach a certain level and never strive to go any further. This causes the humor to actually grow tiring at times. It would have been better if, as the day went on, things would have gotten worse and worse instead of staying on the same level of disaster. The filmmakers seem be aware that the film is intended for children and therefore proceed to play it too safe. Some of the bits are legitimately funny, including a scene where Alexander’s brother takes a drivers test that goes horribly wrong. Unfortunately, where as each disaster should strive to top the one before, they instead seem to be content with being just as good as.
Of course, no review would be complete without mentioning the special cameo by Dick Van Dyke who is exceptionally good, but lets face it, when is he not.
In a day where it is very hard to find a live action kids film that doesn’t make adults groan when being forced to sit through it, Disney’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” is a pleasant movie for the whole family. It’s not great, but it’s also not bad. It’s average, but lets face it, there is nothing wrong with that.