Alexander and the Very Bad Day
Alexander Cooper: You gotta have the bad days so you can love the good days even more.
Steve Carell is a versatile actor. He has a certain charisma that he brings to the table; he’s hypnotizing in his ability to entertain. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a pleasing, schmaltzy, sentimental family farce that delivers on its premise thanks to Carell’s absolute charm. It doesn’t try to be anything more than a straightforward comedy that features good morals and upstanding family values. Clocking in at a brisk 80 minutes, this is a harmless little film with fun to be had.
Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) is a kid who deals with a lot of misfortune. No matter how hard he tries, things never seem to go his way. The day before his twelfth birthday, he has a very bad day at school; a popular kid is holding a birthday party the same day as him and he accidentally sets on fire the notebook of the girl he likes as well as half of the science lab. On top of this, his family seems preoccupied with their own happy lives.
Alexander’s father Ben Cooper (Steve Carell) has a job interview with a video game company, his mother Kelly (Jennifer Garner) is in line for a big promotion at her job, his big brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette) is planning to go to junior prom with the most popular girl in school, and his sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) is starring in the school play of Peter Pan. At 12:01am, Alexander makes a wish that his family experiences a bad day of their own so that they know what it’s like.
Alexander’s wish comes true, beginning with his parents running late after sleeping in. Ben potentially botched his job interview with Greg (Donald Glover), Kelly possibly jeopardized her career with a misprint in a book she’s publishing, Anthony wakes up with a gaping pimple and has a driving test that determines whether or not he drives to prom, Emily gets a severe cold on the day of the play, and baby Cooper’s pacifier gets destroyed. With such an important day at hand, Alexander begins to feel responsible for his family’s misfortune. Can the Cooper’s overcome this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?
Alexander succeeds in the way that it delivers exactly what the premise promises. Adapting a 32 page book leaves a lot up to the writers’ imagination. This is very much a family-centered movie, exhibiting good values and lessons to be learned. There are some melodramatic moments featured but it’s mostly good-humored. The zany antics that ensue aren’t particularly original, but they take into account modern technology which is a leeway into humor (apparently twelve-year-olds have cell phones now). There are several jokes that fall flat, and that may be because I’ve passed a certain age, so this is definitely something for the younger crowd.
Steve Carell’s career has been a successful one. He started out in 1999 being a regular correspondent on The Daily Show, doing little segments here and there. He also had a small role in Bruce Almighty (eventually getting a spinoff movie with that character). But his big break came in 2005 when he landed two leading roles, one being in the American remake of The Office, and the other being in Judd Apatow’s The 40 Year-Old Virgin. Both projects had easy likability and the deadpan humor of the former earned the show stellar ratings and the latter earned solid reviews, skyrocketing Carell as a household name. Carell is in nearly every scene in Alexander. Why? Because of his ability to carry a film on his back.
While Carell is endearing here, he has a durable supporting cast to bounce off of. Jennifer Garner is reliable as Carell’s husband and caring mother of four. Dylan Minnitte is arguably the weakest actor on display. He just doesn’t possess the chemistry all the other actors have with each other. Ed Oxenbould is decent in the titular role, albeit cheesy at times. Kerris Dorsey is a fun presence given the material she is working with. And I’m a sucker for Donald “Childish Gambino” Glover. This isn’t a masterpiece by any means and will probably be forgotten in the months to come, but Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day serves as an amusing family comedy.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day = 3 ½ out of 5