One boy against the whole wide world
ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY Directed by Miguel Arteta. Starring Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey, Bella Thorne, Megan Mullally, Jennifer Coolidge, Dick Van Dyke PG cert, gen release, 81 min It’s the day before his 12th birthday and everything that could go wrong for Alexander does go wrong. A popular kid has sent out invites for an awesome rival party; pictures of Alexander’s head photoshopped onto burlesque cuties appear across all social media; he burns down the science classroom with a book belonging to the studious girl he likes.
Alexander slinks home to a jubilant family: rocket scientist turned stay-at-home dad (Steve Carell) finally has an exciting job interview; mom (Jennifer Garner) has a big launch at her publishing house, one that might actually catapult her into the VP position; older brother Anthony (Dylan Minette) is looking forward to prom and his driving test; big sis Emily (Kerris Dorsey) is rehearsing for the lead role in a musical production of Peter Pan.
If only there was some way for Alexander’s family to understand what it was like to have a really crummy day. One moment of schadenfreude and a birthday wish later, and the entire crew are hexed. Even Dick Van Dyke is gunning for them: “Bert the chimney sweep hates me!” wails Garner.
This lovely, goofy, old-fashioned family comedy is adapted from Judith Viorst’s 1972 kids book. For all its contemporary gloss – photo-bombing, mommy yoga – it feels like a classic bank-holiday movie, something that might slot neatly beside Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Chuck & Buck director Miguel Arteta keeps the laughs coming between the hugs and lessons. A hip cast make lively shapes in the margins. But it’s Ed Oxenbould’s titular hero who steals the show.
Ignore the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad title.