Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014) 2 Stars

“So then that happened…”

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014)
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014)


Director: Miguel Arteta

Cast: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould

Synopsis: Alexander’s day begins with gum stuck in his hair, followed by more calamities. However, he finds little sympathy from his family and begins to wonder if bad things only happen to him, his mom, dad, brother and sister – who all find themselves living through their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.






The title character is a typical eleven-year-old kid gripped by the conviction that his life is cursed. No, he doesn’t have some aggressive form of kiddie cancer, abusive parents or psychological problems – he just has the kind of bad luck to which we all fall victim now and again. In the course of one day – the eve of his twelfth birthday – he gets chewing gum stuck in his hair, makes a fool of himself in front of the girl on whom he has a crush, and finds that some class wag has photoshopped his head onto pictures of women in bikinis and distributed them to the entire school. By contrast, it seems to Alexander that the other members of his family all seem to lead charmed lives, so he makes one of those movie wishes that always comes true, requesting that just once his family could experience the type of day he regularly has to endure.

Sure enough, the following day – which just happens to be an incredibly busy one for everybody – is a sequence of disasters. Dad (Steve Carrell – Despicable Me, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) is forced to take baby Trevor to his big job interview, the book launch upon which his publishing PR Mum’s (Jennifer Garner) career depends goes horribly wrong, brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette – Prisoners) gets suspended from school and is dumped by his girlfriend, sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) comes down with a cold on the day she’s set to play the lead in the school production of Peter Pan, and even Baby Trevor loses the bumble bee pacifier to which he’s strongly attached.

The movie treats this catalogue of disasters with the kind of lighthearted touch you’d expect from a Disney flick, but avoids the generic blandness that has crept into the Mouse House’s live-action product of late. Some actors of Steve Carrell’s status might have demanded more prominent screen time for his character, but it’s good that he’s share screen time with the rest of his movie family. The Coopers might be too picture perfect to convince as a family unit, but then for the premise to work they have to start out as perfect. And despite Alexander’s opinion, his parents and siblings do have their own problems: Dad’s positivity is wearing thin after months out of work, Mum’s stressed out over long hours and a demanding boss, Anthony’s struggling to live up to the expectations of his high-maintenance girlfriend, and Emily’s stressing over her big part.

Of course, all the Coopers’ problems are impeccably resolved by the time the credits roll and the message is an obvious one. But we don’t watch a movie like this to gain an insight into the complexities of life – we watch it because we want an undemanding watch which will provide us with a few laughs, and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day delivers on that score.

(Reviewed 19th August 2015)

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