Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Directed by Miguel Arteta

Starring Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner and Ed Oxenbould
In UK Cinemas October 24th, 2014

by Amanda Farley

Everyone has bad days. It’s a fact. When luck abandons you, 24 hours can feel like a very long time. Spilled drinks, stubbed toes, embarrassing social faux pas and the feeling that life and the universe has turned against you. It’s all part of being human. For most of us though these days are rare, little hiccups in an otherwise okay existence, but for Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) bad days are his life.

To make matters worse, he is about to turn twelve. If there was ever a hopeless godforsaken age, twelve is it. You are quickly outgrowing childhood pleasures but not yet enjoying any adult freedom. Also it doesn’t help that the rest of his family seem to have perfect lives, his big brother (Dylan Minnette) is cool, his sister (Kerris Dorsey) is talented, his baby brother is one happy child and Mum (Jennifer Garner) and Dad (Steve Carell) are busy but making life work for them.

The story begins with perhaps the most terrible and awful day Alexander could imagine. He repeatedly embarrasses himself in front of Becky, his crush, he sets fire to the chemistry lab and his birthday party clashes with the birthday party of the most popular boy in school. Things aren’t looking good and when his family don’t seem to understand, Alexander makes a wish. He wants them to know what a really bad, horrible, no good day is like. Morning brings a new day and as things start going wrong all around him, Alexander realises that his wish may have come true. As the day goes from bad to worse, the Cooper family must pull together in order to survive.

Based on the book by Judith Viorst, this film focuses on the family and builds a more concrete world for the audience. It has a great cast. Garner and Carell are as wonderful as you would expect. In a swap of gender roles we see Garner balance being the sole breadwinner with the pressures of motherhood while Carell takes to baby and yoga classes like a duck to water. Carell has plenty of comedy moments and really shines as the stay at home dad. The film though never strays too far from its protagonist and Oxenbould gives a very nice performance. His lisp is nothing but endearing and it’s hard not to sympathise with him. I think it’s safe to say most kids will be able to relate to Alexander. He is fun, engaging and the story while silly and ridiculous does have a lot of heart.

A few of the jokes seem forced, particularly the x -rated cowboys at the end, but overall the film is sweet and touching. It reminds us that sometimes a bad day can be exactly what we need as it makes us focus on what really matters. Because it’s not always what we do that counts but who we are with while we are doing it.  So long as the Coopers all stick together, nothing can defeat them, not even the day from hell.

If you want to watch something that really is not very bad, you could do worse then spending 82 minutes with Alexander.

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