Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day


Steve Carell as Ben Cooper
Jennifer Garner as Kelly Cooper
Ed Oxenbould as Alexander Cooper
Dylan Minnette as Anthony Cooper
Kerris Dorsey as Emily Cooper
Elise Vargas as Baby Trevor
Zoey Vargas as Baby Trevor
Sidney Fullmer as Becky Gibson
Bella Thorne as Celia
Megan Mullally as Nina

Directed by Miguel Arteta

“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” features fun, family-friendly performances by Steve Carrell, Jennifer Garner, and a strong supporting cast, but a weak ending and unmemorable young stars make this a light but forgettable film.

“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” is based on the 1972 children’s book by Judith Viorst.

Alexander is having a bad day. He woke up with gum in his hair. His best friend has abandoned him and is hanging out with the coolest kid in school. Nobody will come to his birthday party, because they are going to a party held by the aforementioned cool kid. He accidentally set his crush’s notebook on fire in science class. You get the idea ? it?s a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

To make matters worse, the rest of his family seems to be on top of the world. His mother is about to be promoted at work. His brother is about to be prom king alongside his girlfriend, the hottest girl in school. His sister is about to star in the school play. His father is about to go on a job interview for a position at a video game company. And his baby brother is getting all of the attention from his parents.

So on his birthday morning, Alexander wishes that everyone else could have a bad day so they could know what it feels like. Little does he know that he’ll get his wish.

“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” is rated PG for rude humor including some reckless behavior and language.

What Worked:
While I don’t remember much about this children’s book beyond the title, I can say that “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” is a fun little film that the whole family can enjoy. It’s short, sweet, and is pretty much exactly what you’d expect for a family comedy aimed at kids 11 and under.

Among the high points in the film are Steve Carell as Ben Cooper and Jennifer Garner as Kelly Cooper. While they don’t exactly feel like a natural couple, they’re both funny when in freak-out mode. You don’t typically think of Jennifer Garner when you think of comedy, yet she more than holds her own with Carrell. She has one particularly memorable scene. After accidentally walking in on her teenage son naked, he acts upset about it during a particularly stressful moment for Kelly. In a fit of frustration, she declares, “I’ve seen every penis in this car! Get over it!” Carrell solemnly nods in agreement, and they move on. At first I thought, “Wow, is that entirely appropriate for a Disney kid?s movie?” Then I realized I’ve pretty much said the exact same thing to my kids before. And that’s the other thing that makes this movie enjoyable – you’ll see something here that hits close to home. My youngest son is named Alexander and he has older siblings who are learning to drive, obsessive compulsive, pulling attention away from him, etc. So he particularly enjoyed the film as it spoke to him on a personal level.

Also noteworthy is the supporting cast. It includes Dick van Dyke, who plays himself. He tells a group of kids, “If you don’t know who I am, ask your parents. If they don’t know, ask their parents.” It was a lot of fun seeing him on the big screen again. Donald Glover also appears as a video game entrepreneur and Megan Mullally appears as a terrible boss, but the best cameo is that by Jennifer Coolidge as an intense driving instructor. She puts Anthony through sheer hell and every second of it is enjoyable.

On a side note, it’s fun to see the Disney cross-brand promotion begin with Alexander prominently wearing a Darth Vader shirt on his bad day. That’s product placement I can support.

What Didn’t Work:
While 2/3 of the film is fairly enjoyable, the last 1/3 ends rather flatly. It’s dull, predictable, and not at all in line with some of the edgier humor elsewhere in the film (see the aforementioned penis joke). It ends up being rather forgettable.

The young cast is also fairly bland. Once the rest of the family starts going through their misfortunes, Ed Oxenbould as Alexander is pretty much pushed aside as a spectator. Kerris Dorsey as Emily gets one brief moment to shine in a production of Peter Pan that goes spectacularly wrong, but then you realize that she’s essentially drunk on cough syrup. It’s not really a great message to send to kids that if you drink too much cough syrup, you act ‘silly.’ Then Dylan Minnette as Anthony has some fun moments as he attempts to get his driver’s license, yet by the end of the film everything that made him interesting earlier in the story–selfishness, vanity, a terrible girlfriend–is gone.

The Bottom Line:
If you need to entertain kids 11 and under for 80 minutes, this will fit the bill. Fans of Garner and Carrell should also enjoy it. But if you?re looking for something deeper, you’ll be disappointed.