It seems that for every Frozen Disney feels compelled to produce an Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day; the first film had a very definite audience and was enjoyed by both younger audience members and their older parents. The latter film had the smaller viewers fidgeting, talking and, most importantly, not laughing; some of their guardians were laughing but these “guffaws” were far and few between, with the first out-loud laugh not coming until 15 minutes into the film. For a comedy, this long delay to get to the funny does not bode well.
Directed by Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl, Youth in Revolt) from an adaption by Rob Lieber, based on the book written by Judith Viorst, who has written a load of children’s books, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day drags and is not overly funny. While some of the older members of the audience may find some things amusing, the rest will be looking at their watches and trying to calm little Tina and Timmy down although their antics may be more interesting than what is occurring onscreen.
Starring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner as the parents of the family Cooper, she is a publisher and he is a recently laid-off “stay at home dad,” the movie features the type of family that no one has anymore. Of course the modern touch of the “Fromy” aka Carell attempts to move this oversized group into present day, but the nuclear family is much more prevalent than the large four kid collection featured in the film.
The plot is a sort of variation on a familiar Disney theme, think Freaky Friday but without the body swapping. Middle child Alexander, the main protagonist in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, has one stinker of a day. Since his siblings and parents seem to lead charmed lives where everything goes perfectly, on his birthday he wishes that they can know his suffering and it happens.
The rest of the film is the family having what seems to be the worst of days, but as they are all eternal optimists, think Pollyanna from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, things are not as bad as they seem. There are a few amusing moments, Carell sets himself on fire and Garner manages to embarrass Dick Van Dyke and so on. These antics of the adults are the least funny bits of the film. This is not to say that the actors did not do good job, they just weren’t given anything overly funny to do, although the shrimp bit looked promising.
The kids do have the comic edge. Kerris Dorsey as older sister Emily (Moneyball, Ray Donovan) overdosing on cough syrup is truly funny and Dylan Minnette (Prisoners, Let Me In) as eldest child Anthony has a brilliant bit during his driving test. Alexander, played by Ed Oxenbould (Julien, Puberty Blues) is given little to do apart from moping around with a hangdog expression on his face is the only child actor who does not have a standout comic moment.
Bella Thorne (Frenemies, Blended) plays Celia, Anthony’s vacuous girlfriend with a sort of vicious glee, but she is more irritating than funny in this slow comedy. Thorne did portray the shallow and annoying high school deb with perfection, the script just did not allow her character to be amusing.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a comedy film that is not very funny. Disney do miss the mark with their live action movies more often than not. In this instance the humor in Alexander’s story was as old fashioned as the family size. Had the script replaced the word “dump” with “sh**” or something equally crude, the theater would have been filled with laughter. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day opens on October 10. Avoid taking very small children as the snail’s pace will bore them and prepare to be faintly amused, except for the cough syrup and driving test scenes which are the best bits in the film.
By Michael Smith
Sunset Station Theatre