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

Not as good a title as Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, but like that film, the titular character isn't really the main character as he is a character in what's mainly an ensemble but really the Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner show!

Based on the book by Judith Viort, written by Ron Lieber and directed by Miguel Arteta, Ed Oxenbould plays Alexander Cooper, a very smart but awkward kid on the eve of celebrating his 12th birthday. There's not much more to know about him, except he likes all things Australia. Where or why he has this Australian obsession is never explored. Aside from some unlucky things that happen early in the film, Alexander becomes a bit of an after-thought in the narrative.

It's assumed that this movie might be akin to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but even as obnoxious as the young actor was in that adaptation, at least one could ascribe some kind of arc or personality to him. The character of Alexander here gets no kind of arc or personality. I suppose one could argue that by the end Alexander is a bit more optimistic about his outlook on life, but he was never really that pessimistic as he was just reacting normally to the actual unfortunate stuff that was happening.

Of the other five characters, one of which is a baby, so of the four characters capable of really being developed, only two get any serious attention and both are the male characters. Garner who plays the mom has an interesting setup where she feels a bit guilty about being the current breadwinner and spending a lot of time at work, while missing important moments with the kids. Yet, after she's pulled into the roller coaster ride that is this movie, that angle is virtually dropped. Kerris Dorsey who plays the only daughter and second eldest child seems only to exist to execute a gag that results in Carell wearing a pirate shirt after spouting his maxim of "steering your ship with positivity."

In terms of the male characters who dominate this movie, Carell's Ben Cooper is one whose maxim is put to the test. The other is Dylan Minnette who plays the eldest child Anthony. It's the eve of his junior prom and he has some ideas about what being blessed is and what's important that's also put to the test in this one 24-hour period.

When it comes to recent movies about families that get into crazy things, I will say this movie was funnier than the R-rated and more adult This is Where I Leave You. There's one "Chim Chimney" line that was worth the price of admission alone, but given that this movie has its family running here and there in a beat-up mini-van, and given that it shares an actor, this film is reminiscent of Little Miss Sunshine (2006). Yet, this movie is not as funny as that Oscar-nominee. This movie doesn't have the same relentless energy.

That, coupled with the fact that it's not as balanced an ensemble, brings this one down a peg. What also brings it down is that Little Miss Sunshine doesn't shy away from a dance number at that end, despite its sexual undertones. This movie does shy away from a dance number at the end because its sexual undertones.

It's Australia's Thunder From Down Under. I understand not having a bunch of beefcakes strip down to their thongs at a 12-year-old's birthday party, but they're cut off after being on screen for all of two seconds. Why even bother having them if that's all you do with them?

Instead of giving the daughter practically nothing to do but be loopy or drug-addled for one scene, she should have been the one to plan the birthday party, which would have explained the Thunder From Down Under, but alas, no!

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG for rude humor including some reckless behavior and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 21 mins.


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