Published in 1972 and written by Judith Viorst, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" is the first live-action adaptation of this children's classic. Though Disney tries mightily to launch "Alexander" into the realm of film "classic" by employing the efforts of Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner, the end production falls terribly, horribly short.
The day before his twelfth birthday, Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) is having a pretty bad day. First thing in the morning --- right out of bed --- he gets gum in his hair. What? Then the class bully posts photos of his head on girls' bodies on line, and he sets Becky Gibson's (Sidney Fullmer) notebook on fire in the physics lab.
And, to top it off, he finds out that the "cool kid" Philip Parker (Lincoln Melcher) is having his birthday party the very next night --- the night of his own --- and ALL of his classmates are going there instead, even his best friend Paul (Mekai Curtis).
Totally dejected, poor Alexander thinks no one in his family, including his dad Ben (Carell) and mom Kelly (Garner), understands or cares about his problems. But, as he quickly learns the next day --- his birthday --- everyone can have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
David is not at all enamored with this movie. Though I didn't love it, I can see its appeal for young children, and parents who must take them to the theater. I have never read Ms. Viorst's book, so it is difficult to know where screenwriter Ron Lieber went astray. But much of the dialogue is completely inane, and too childish for 12-year-olds.
Ben was actually a "rocket scientist" before he lost his job, and yet he walks around speaking gibberish like a five-year-old. I respect his efforts to always remain positive, but eventually he has a scene where he has a "meltdown", and he kicks the hell out of the trash cans in the parking lot of a restaurant. It's a tad ridiculous --- and way over the top.
Oxenbould is kinda cute, but I found his lisp annoying instead of endearing. His siblings, Anthony (Dylan Minnette) and Emily (Kerris Dorsey), are equally nerve-wracking. I didn't care for their performances at all. And don't even get me started on Anthony's self-centered, snooty girlfriend Celia (Bella Thorne). She overacts throughout --- and what she sees in Anthony anyway is a mystery.
The only really adorable character is Baby Trevor played by Zoey Vargas --- a beautiful baby with huge brown eyes. Little Trevor steals the show.
I have to believe the classic book is a whole lot better than this film. Driving around in a doorless minivan in LA --- so absurd --- they deserve a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Opinion: Wait for DVD
The best aspect of this latest Steve Carell comedy is its running time --- it is mercifully short at 81 minutes. A minute longer and (borrowing from Jeanne) I would have left the theater screaming.
"Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" is one big slapstick scene after another. All that's missing are the pies in the face.
The Cooper clan is mostly a bunch of irritating individuals who experience one day when almost nothing goes according to plan. The only saving grace is their baby, Trevor (Zoey Vargas), possibly the cutest infant in the history of cinema.
The movie is also very preachy. To wit, family is more important than going to the prom with your girlfriend (which is probably true). But going to the prom is what Anthony Cooper (Dylan Minnette), Ben's (Carell) oldest son, had high hopes of doing for virtually the entire film.
"Alexander" is a non-factor in Carell's career, and confirms my opinion that Jennifer Garner should stick to dramatic roles. She was a quiet force in "Draft Day" with Kevin Costner earlier this year, and her performance in "Dallas Buyers Club" was extraordinary. But her comedic appearances in this film, and others (the awful "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" comes to mind) leave a lot to be desired.
If your kids insist on seeing this flimsy attempt at comedy, do yourself a favor --- drop them off, do something else for 81 minutes, then pick them up. Trust me, you do not want to sit through "Alexander".
Opinion: Don't Bother!