A talented, likeable cast makes “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” a fun movie for every age group. Directed by Miguel Arteta, with screenplay and screen story by Rob Lieber, based on Judith Viorst’s book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” takes a look at life through the eyes of Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) on the eve and day of his 12th birthday.
Birthday eve, Alexander has experienced the worst of horrible days on a day when everything seems to be going right for the rest of his family—recently laid-off dad has an interview; harried, publishing executive mom in line for a promotion; older teen-age brother going to the prom with the girl of his dreams; and, teen-age sister about to star in her school’s production of “Peter Pan.” After midnight, Alexander goes into the kitchen, has a birthday cupcake and makes a birthday wish—that everyone else in his family knew what it was like to have a day as bad as his. Be careful what you wish for because…they finally do have his experience and it happens for them all on the same day.
Although Australian, Ed Oxenbould is positively phenomenal in the title role as the very American, Alexander. Perhaps he was cast because his character has a love for all things Australian. Who knows, but he is extremely good. Not conventionally cute, he’s adorable nevertheless and is capable of showing all forms of emotion. He does such a great job at keeping Alexander likeable that you find yourself rooting for his character to finally have a really good day. Steve Carell is terrific as the unemployed dad, Ben, who jumps in as a hands-on, full-time “famy” (half-father, half mommy–trust me, it’s funny when the baby says it) with great abandon and enthusiasm. His role has some slapstick moments, but is never too over the top. His scenes with Baby Trevor and with his potential co-workers are especially good. Jennifer Garner, as the stressed-out mom, Kelly, who’s trying to hold it all together as the sudden breadwinner, gets a chance to show off her comedic chops in some very amusing scenes involving a bike. As Anthony, Alexander’s older brother, Dylan Minnette is just terrific. This actor has a gift for physical as well as situational comedy. Some of his scenes are the movie’s funniest because he is able to tackle them so well. Kerris Dorsey, as the aspiring Peter Pan, is a complete revelation. Currently seen as the dour teen in “Ray Donovan,” she’s very likeable and funny as Alexander’s older sister, Emily, who catches a cold before her big debut. She’s evidently multi-talented because with her real-life sister, Justine, she sings the film’s closing credits’ song and is very good.
A recent article in the Washington Post has an interview with the real Alexander, now 47, upon whom the book was based. Although the film takes place in California, he was raised in Northwest DC, where he still resides with a family of his own, and is apparently no worse the wear for his childhood fame.
“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” is a family film that both children and adults can enjoy…although children will probably enjoy it more. It’s fun without being saccharine or stupid. It’s a good, not terrible way to spend an afternoon at the movies.
2 ½ nuggets out of 4