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

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

3 stars

People of a certain age may recall having read Judith Viorst’s award-winning 1972 children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And if you are one of those acquainted with its humorous anecdotes, you are probably wondering how the Disney masters have managed a full-length feature film from a book of a mere 32 pages. And a picture book at that.

Well, first of all, at a scant 82 minutes, it barely qualifies as a feature-length film, and secondly, the film’s makers – director Miguel Arteta and screenwriter Rob Lieber – began their adaptation by using the book’s story as the film’s opening and then created a completely original storyline for the remainder of the film giving it very little resemblance to its source material. What does remain however, is the original’s curiously trivial message which reminds us that everyone has a bad day now and again.

Alexander’s (Ed Oxenbould in his debut role) bad day begins when he awakens with a wad of gum in his hair. The middle school horrors continue when he is humiliated by a texting prank that goes badly, and then is disappointed to learn his best friend will skip his birthday party in favor of the party of a much cooler classmate. How could things get much worse, right? Well, they do.

Garnering very little sympathy from his obnoxiously upbeat family and convinced he’s completely misunderstood, Alexander decides to reverse the curse by making a wish that everyone in his family will have a very bad day. From the moment they wake up, the entire family is plunged into a day of horrendous mayhem. Ok, maybe not “horrendous” by real-life measure, but definitely no good, very bad by Disney standards.

Disney’s magic was to not only flesh out the book’s plot, but to also expand its themes by touching on such feel-good topics as family, love, parenthood, and the realization that bad days are about how we struggle through them and how we manage to keep our dignity and sense of family. Not sure the kiddos will grasp the more meaty suggestions, but they will certainly enjoy the abundant irreverent humor and harmless madcap shenanigans. Speaking of which,  Disney pulled a major feat of PG magic by sneaking past the MPAA censors a number of racy euphemisms, including a rapid-fire sequence of penisjokes, and a not-too-subtle reference to blowing one’s didgeridoo.

Unemployed but overtly optimistic Dad (Steve Carrell, who holds the entire thing together) plays Mr. Mom to baby Trevor while toting the toddler to a disastrous job interview. Jennifer Garner is harried, modern Mom Kelly to Alexander, his successful-teen brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette) and theatrically-blessed sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey).

From the moment they awake, each experiences a series of personal disasters. Anthony violently fails his driver’s license test before subsequently losing his girlfriend (Bella Thorne), Emily’s opening night as the star of the school’s play results in an over-medicated mess, and Kelly’s oversight of an unfortunate publishing typo results in Dick Van Dyke getting potty-mouthed during a book reading. Oh, and then there’s vomit, fire, male strippers, and a wallaby with anger managemtn issues.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day isn’t a very good movie. But then again, neither is it a bad one. In fact, it’s actually quite likable with a well-meaning – but slightly obscure – message, snappy dialogue, pleasant characters (save for Thorne’s Celia who displays no redeeming qualities) and harmless Disney-fied foolishness. But best of all, at 81 minutes, it never lingers on for too long. Arteta certainly realized he didn’t have much material to work with but unfortunately wasn’t able to make it anything more than a nice, pleasant, not bad, extremely average movie.

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

MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor including some reckless behavior and language.
81 mins
: Miguel Arteta
Rob Lieber
Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould
: Comedy | Family
So then that happened....
Memorable Movie Quote: "Nice boobs, Alexander"
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 10, 2014
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: Based on Judith Viorst’s 1972 illustrated children’s classic, Disney's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day follows the exploits of 11-year-old Alexander as he experiences the most terrible and horrible day of his young life—a day that begins with gum stuck in his hair, followed by one calamity after another. But when Alexander tells his upbeat family about the misadventures of his disastrous day, he finds little sympathy and begins to wonder if bad things only happen to him. He soon learns that he's not alone when his brother, sister, mom and dad all find themselves living through their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Anyone who says there is no such thing as a bad day just hasn't had one.

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