Thursday, June 18, 2015

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

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good story and message
Cons: Predictable with not as many laughs as they tried for
The Bottom Line:
As bad day beings
Will the family survive?
Amusing moments

It’s Not that the Movie is Terrible, Horrible, No Good, or Very Bad.  It’s Just Average

It always amuses me when a feature film is made out of a picture book.  You know they are going to have to really stretch the plot to make the film work since you can read most picture books in 10 minutes if there are lots and lots of words.  Still, some of them can be quite fun, so I was interested in seeing Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  Turns out this is an average picture book to film adaptation.

Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) is convinced that he is cursed to have nothing but bad days.  This morning, for example, he wakes up with gum in his hair and an invitation to a party from the most popular kid in school.  The problem?  The party is opposite his own twelfth birthday party.  Meanwhile, the rest of his family has amazing things happen to them constantly.  That night, he makes himself a birthday cake and a wish – that his family would see what it is like to have a bad day.

And boy do things do downhill quickly for the rest of them.  His older brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette) wakes up to a pimple on prom day while sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) has a cold on opening night of her class play.  The promising day his parents had also goes wrong as Ben (Steve Carell) has problems with a job interview and Kelly (Jennifer Garner) hits a major snag in a book launch at her job.  Meanwhile, Alexander’s life is going right for once.  But will any of them survive the as the chaos builds?

As I’ve often said, I’m not a fan of embarrassment humor, when we are supposed to laugh at characters making fools of themselves.  I usually cringe instead of laugh.  That’s what we are treated to here, although it’s not nearly as bad as it could have been.  There are some laughs, but not nearly as many as they were trying for.

On the other hand, I did love the ultimate message of the film about the importance of family and sticking together no matter what comes your way.

The story is fairly predictable, especially since they open with a shot of the family near the end of their bad day.  Honestly, that shot ruins many of the surprises along the way, and I think killed a few laughs over the course of the film.  Granted, it’s not one of my favorite narrative techniques, but I still think this weakened the film.  Anyway, the predictability isn’t a huge issue since the film is fast paced with switches to the various characters so something is always happening even if we can guess what it might be.

The characters are fine but we’ve seen them before in other family movies.  The cast does a great job of bringing them to life, there just isn’t much to work with.  I’m not the biggest fan of Steve Carell since I can find him annoying, but I actually liked him here.  I’m a huge fan of Jennifer Garner, and enjoyed getting to see her in a new role.  The kids were all good as well.

Obviously, they’ve expanded on the book.  In fact, at times it seems like they just borrowed the name of the book and the main character.  However, there are a couple of nods to the book early on that fans will enjoy.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day isn’t a bad film.  Kids will probably really enjoy it.  Adults will find it amusing, but they won’t find much to bring them back to watch it again and again.

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