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


Much like anyone that grew up in the nineties, “Alexander and the Terrible Horrible…” was a childhood favorite. It’s a really good and funny book about bad luck and how we make our own. Surely Alexander looks like a boy who is perpetually cursed, but really if he hadn’t been so careless the night before, perhaps his day would have been better. My expectations for the film adaptation were slim, considering the book is only about thirty two pages long. Much like “Liar Liar,” the film is based on a slight touch of fantasy, and unfolds like a less menacing and violent “Three O’Clock High.”

The day is one long nightmare and inescapable. I didn’t find the movie to be a runaway comedy classic, but as a family film, damn it it works. It promotes togetherness, bonding, and family, and I love films that accomplish those themes and work them in to a complete story. I care about the Coopers, and that’s probably because the performances by the cast are so genuine and human. Steve Carell is dialed down this time around as Ben, the patriarch of the Coopers, while Jennifer Garner is great as mother Kelly. Ben is a stay at home dad struggling to find a job, while Kelly works for a publisher that is busy on a very top secret children’s book. Meanwhile, Alexander’s sister Emily is preparing for a big role as Peter Pan, while brother Anthony is readying a string of events including prom, and getting his driver’s license.

As per the book, Alexander awakens to what is one of the worst days of his life, and this prompts a misunderstanding by his family, all of whom drive themselves on positive attitudes. To Alexander, his day is terrible, but to his family he’s simply making his own bad luck and not seeing the bright side; especially with his birthday looming closer and closer. Alexander wishes for his birthday that his family could see what he was going through and this prompts a small wish to turn in to a series of fun and unbelievable calamities that occur to the Cooper brood. Really the movie is about bad luck, but one of the messages it strives to convey to its target audience is that often times we make our bad luck. Whether it’s carelessness, selfishness, or our own inability to be aware of the world around us, a lot of times bad luck is our own doing.

And other times bad days just happen out of the blue. We need the bad days, because life without it would not help us grow as characters. That’s what happens in “Alexander and the Terrible Horrible…”, the Coopers grow as characters throughout the narrative, enduring painfully bad luck, but also learning that they can combat it by sticking together and learning to appreciate what didn’t happen to them, as opposed to what is. Carell and Garner are charming, while Ed Oxenbould carries the film as Alexander. “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it genuinely adorable and entertaining.