Maybe they should have gone with Alexander and the stretched out, wordy, not short, very long movie title.
“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” is based on the book of the same lengthy name about a boy whose birthday wish is that the rest of his family could understand what it means to have a truly awful day and what happens when that wish appears to have come true. It certainly has all the makings of just another run of the mill family film, but you know what, I really liked it.
I think there’s this sweet spot of silliness that these movies can find, where they are genuinely outlandish and funny, but don’t go quite so far that you’re rolling your eyes. It reminds me a lot of movies like Steve Martin’s “Cheaper by the Dozen”, where it’s nothing spectacular but it makes for a good 90 minutes of amusement. It’s a tricky balance to find, especially in a movie like this where it’s a literal comedy of errors. For this movie to have this many things go wrong on one day could easily feel forced or manufactured, but the story does a great job of resetting us with the family dynamic between each catastrophe. And it does it quickly. Don’t underestimate the power of a movie that doesn’t take too long to get us from one plot point to the next. Of course it also helps that this cast is hilarious. Carell is so good in everything he does these days, and both his humor and heart are on full display here. Jennifer Garner is the mom and is perfect for that role as are the kids at the center of it all. Add to that a beautiful message about how the love of family is strengthened during both easy and hard times and it was hard for me not to have a great experience with Alexander and his crew.
Honestly, the only things I would dock it points for are that there is little risk taken here. Not that every movie necessarily has to be a piece of art, but it’s nice to see a filmmaker try some new things, or bring a message in a new way. This doesn’t really do that which can make the whole process feel a bit one dimensional at times. It reminds me of Peanut Butter Toast. There’s something very basic about this movie in the same way that you might enjoy Peanut Butter Toast for a meal. It’s nothing special, but sometimes slapping some Jif on a piece of toasted bread just feels right. If you’re looking for a three course meal you’ve come to the wrong movie, but if you’re thinking a simple snack might do, you might just find your fill.
Overall, “Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” day” is a wonderful, humorous, not bad, very good movie. With a perfect cast and a well balanced sense of slapstick humor, it hits it mark pretty well. Even if it doesn’t break much new ground, it still finishes it’s day with a B+