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

There is a surprisingly amount of joy and subsequently plenty of laughter that comes from watching Disney’s latest family-friendly fare. Most if it is derived from watching people figuratively get hit with pies, but Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is also buoyed by earnestness, a spattering of absurdity, and a fleet of pace that sees the movie come in at under 90 minutes.

After young Alexander (Ed Oxenbould), third of four children in an exceptionally outgoing and active family, has what he deems a frustrating day made all the more annoying because he feels that no one can understand him (or he doesn’t want them to), he wishes for the rest of the Cooper clan to experience what he’s endured.

So a cold, a pimple, and a broken alarm clock begin what is an important (and ridiculously coincidental) day for all in the family. The eldest brother has senior prom, the sister has her play, the father has a big job interview, the mother has a major book launch, and the baby, well, the baby needs to not run off or eat things. It’s the perfect storm of predictable pratfalls.

Where Alexander excels is its refreshing discipline. Above all else, it refrains from falling into cruel stereotypes and not using established caricatures to drive home a generic story. Instead it simply presents a rather average upper-middle class family having a particularly (first world) problematic and consequently entertaining 24 hours.

But the actress sister, the cool older brother, the stay-at-home dad (Steve Carell charming), and the work-crazy mother (Jennifer Garner, lovely) aren’t as one dimensional as they so easily could be. Sure, it’s standard bubbly family fare, but it’s not really like Alexander is being shunned and chastised and overlooked all the time – just one day.

In that there exists more meaning and sincerity than most familial PG comedies looking to appeal to the widest possible audience. What’s best too is an underlying sentiment that isn’t especially prevalent in the family genre: sometimes things don’t go your way, and there is just nothing you can do about it.

[star v=35]

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.