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

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“This day is so cursed.”

We’ve all been there. Those mornings when you wake up and instinctively know that today just isn’t going to be your day no matter how hard you try. Alexander (I’ll leave out all of the adjectives) is a heartwarming movie about the strength of family and the power of optimism. It’s been a long time coming for Disney to have a successful live action film, and they finally hit the mark this go around. If you see it, I’m certain you’ll be blown away by how much better it is than you might have thought that it would be.

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Alexander opens up with a voice over by the title character played by Ed Oxenbould. Honestly, his lisp-filled narration starts the movie out slow and doesn’t show much promise. Easy opportunities for jokes are squandered while his family comes off as egocentric. Worst of all, it’s almost too hard to watch things endlessly go wrong for a nice kid with a streak of poor luck. The first fifteen minutes, while lukewarm and plodding, takes its time to set up where the story is going to go. All directions point up for Alexander and down for his family.

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Everything revolves around the Coopers. Baby Trevor (Elise and Zoey Vargas) can’t stop peeing and crying after Alexander accidentally destroys his binky. Emily (Kerris Dorsey) obsessively practices her lines as the lead in her school’s rendition of Peter Pan. Anthony (Dylan Minnette) just wants to pass his driver’s test and take his ice queen girlfriend Celia (Bella Thorne) to junior prom. Meanwhile, the mom Kelly (Jennifer Garner) works at a publishing company ready to roll out a new children’s book and the father Ben (Steve Carell) is hopeful about a job interview he has lined up. At dinner, everyone has something positive to say, except for Alexander. It’s the day before his birthday party and the cool twelve year old in school decides to have his gathering the same day. Things couldn’t go worse.

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The beloved children’s story this is adapted from is rather short, and frankly I hated the idea when I heard it was being made into a feature length film. An important hitch is thrown into the mix that gives the filmmakers and director Miguel Arteta something to tow the rest of the story with. How do you translate a 32 page story from the 1970’s into something current audiences will enjoy? Obviously they knew what they were doing. The performances are sound, the writing’s tight, and the pacing is unbelievable. It achieves more in under 90 minutes than most movies can in two hours.

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I saw the movie with some family at a local “cinema grill.” You sit down, order your food, and wait for it come out while you watch the movie. It’s a great idea and I love going, but sometimes it’s pure chaos. It was funny how my experience tied so much into the movie. A rude man had a server unintentionally douse him with a pitcher of soda. A waitress inadvertently kept blocking my view while babies cried and toddlers yelled. A woman with a voice suited for anti-tobacco commercials kept talking behind me like she was yelling across a parking lot. I couldn’t help but laugh. Life is messy. So is Alexander. But it’s also warm, and charming, and most of all fun. It makes your day better.

“I think that you just gotta have the bad days so that you can just love the good days even more.”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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