Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – Review

In a day and age in which children are saddled with either 12A action flicks or computer-animated cinema offerings, there’s something delightfully old-school about Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day; a film which draws real attention to the lack of PG-rated family fare in modern multiplexes.

Eleven year-old Alexander Cooper has had the bad day to end all bad days; between getting gum stuck in his hair and discovering that his friends are bailing on his birthday party in favour of a more popular kid’s, it feels like nothing can go right for him. Down in the dumps and with a largely pre-occupied and unsympathetic family, Alexander makes a birthday wish that they all share in his misfortune; a wish which comes true just as each member of the Cooper clan is set for a day that could potentially make or break their future happiness.

A breezily-paced and enjoyable family adventure, it’s a step higher than the Disney Channel fare the marketing would suggest; an enjoyable real-world adventure for the kids and enjoyable enough to keep parents entertained throughout. It’s also a surprisingly subversive film in the statements it makes about gender roles in such films, with the rather ably cast Carell and Garner both giving their all as a set of parents who encounter actually relatable problems. Mom’s the breadwinner here, while a recession-hit dad is handling the kids (“fommy” is the movie’s take-home gag for adults) and whilst it would be easy for these definitions to be all the parents have going for them, the casting proves adept at providing genuine depth for both. Sure, Carell can sleepwalk through this sort of role – although rarely for child-friendly entertainment – but Garner surprises with how enjoyable her presence can be in a more light-hearted picture.

In the titular role, Oxenbould is engaging and solidly likeable; deftly able to sell the end-of-the-world crises only kids can find in the minutia of the everyday. Kerris Dorsey may be the token “focussed” sibling, but she benefits heavily from the story’s subversive tendencies; here saddling the requisite dating story with Dylan Minnette’s older brother character, and instead giving Dorsey’s Emily an actual crisis of her own rather than simply relying on her to be somebody’s tween love interest. That said, Minnette does very well with his subplot; the unfolding of which gives him easily the movie’s best comedic set-piece – complete with a brilliantly shrieking Jennifer Coolidge – and showcases possibly more than anything else in the film just how entertaining a movie aimed squarely at PG audiences can be when the material allows a younger cast room to explore their roles. The three younger cast members are pleasant enough company for the movie’s (refreshingly short) runtime, never overstay their welcome and each wholeheartedly add something to proceedings.

A film which genuinely belongs on the DVD shelf of all families with children, Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a film which kids will want to watch again and again yet retains a decent amount of rewatchability for adults. A perfect PG picture, and a good time for parents and children alike, it’s a refreshingly good-natured and fun family film that will undoubtedly be one of the brighter spots of any child’s bad day.

Catch Van Connor’s reviews in our Movies section and live on Slam Dunk Cinema every Saturday at 12PM on Sheffield Live! 93.2FM or on the podcast via iTunes.

In it
Ed Oxenbould, Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner
Behind it
Miguel Arteta

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