It was a beloved children’s book from the 1970s, but now this simple, black-and-white illustrated story has been turned into a feature length Disney film. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day follows a day in the life of the Cooper family as they experience a series of unfortunate events, ranging from a crashed car to a crocodile in the front hallway. Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) is all too familiar with bad days, but his high achieving family are so busy with their own successes that they seem oblivious to Alexander’s bad luck. On Alexander’s 12th birthday, he finds himself blowing out the candles and wishing that his family would understand how it feels to have a truly terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. All of a sudden, Alexander’s luck begins to change and things start to go right for a change… but, for his father (Steve Carell), mother (Jennifer Garner), and three siblings, everything begins to go awfully, outrageously wrong.
This film appeals to a rather niche target audience: it’s too grown up for children below six, and older tweens growing out of slapstick comedy won’t find it very appealing either, while there are very few adult gags to keep the parents engaged. And, as someone who is far removed from that small 7-12 age bracket, this film didn’t quite make it across the finish line for me. While it was never boring, mostly due to fast pacing and a short, 80-minute run time, there was a lack of originality in the humour, which circled around your basic toilet, vomit and people-getting-hurt comedy. Most of the verbal jokes lacked the wit and pizzazz needed to engage an older audience, and the only time I laughed was in fact the final gag of the movie, which unfortunately was too little, too late.
However, for the children who do fit into the target audience, I can see how Alexander could be quite entertaining. The slapstick comedy is there, but it isn’t overpowering, and the film does have a really nice message about family and knowing what’s truly important in life, delivered in a way that seems all-too-obvious for older audiences, but for kids is easy to digest. Steve Carrel is always amusing, while Australian actor Ed Oxenbould makes for a very charismatic and talented child actor. I find it incredibly impressive that this Australian kid managed to pull of such a great performance in this big-budget Disney film, putting on American accent and all, and I expect very good things from this little man in the future.
It might be a great movie for some, but unfortunately Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day doesn’t quite appeal to the masses. There just isn’t enough universal humour to satisfy a wide range of audiences, the effect of which means a potentially entertaining movie falls unfortunately flat.
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