Disney's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day follows the exploits of 11-year-old Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) as he experiences the most terrible and horrible day of his young life — a day that begins with gum stuck in his hair, followed by one calamity after another. But when Alexander tells his upbeat family about the misadventures of his disastrous day, he finds little sympathy and begins to wonder if bad things only happen to him. He soon learns that he's not alone when his mom (Jennifer Garner), dad (Steve Carell), brother (Dylan Minnette) and sister (Kerris Dorsey) all find themselves living through their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Anyone who says there is no such thing as a bad day just hasn't had one.
To be upfront, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” was my favorite children’s book growing up. I could relate to everything that happened to that poor kid on every page. In particular not getting a toy in my breakfast cereal. I grew up in a house that rarely had any sugary cereals so I missed out on the toys quite a bit. With that, when it was announced that Disney was going into production for a feature length live action film - my first question was “how?” How are they going to expand one kids’ particular bad day into a full movie
From the opening shot of the movie ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’ the answer to that question is quite clear - everyone has a bad day. To the film’s credit, this was actually a pretty smart move. While the kid’s book was a quick little parable, the movie capitalizes on the great cast and smart writing to make a fairly decent and fun bit of family entertainment that stays true to the intended spirit of the source material.
Alexander Cooper, played by Ed Oxenbould, is an Australia-obsessed 12 year old kid whose family doesn't seem to understand what having a bad day really is like. His older brother Anthony, Dylan Minnette, is dating the prettiest girl in school and is about to get his driver’s license. His older sister Emily, Kerris Dorsey, is playing the lead in the school’s production of Peter Pan. His baby brother Trevor said his first word. His mother, Jennifer Garner, is about to land a big promotion. His out of work, endlessly optimistic father, Steve Carell, just got a job interview with a video game developer. Meanwhile, poor Alexander tripped on a lawn sprinkler in front of the girl he likes, had his face photoshopped onto pictures of women that were sent to every kid in school, burned down the science lab with his partner’s notes, and he didn’t get Australia for his Social Studies assignment - all on the day before his birthday. How could things possibly get worse?
After a midnight ice cream birthday wish, things do get worse, a lot worse - but only for Alexander’s seemingly endlessly blessed family! What ensues is a family comedy of fantastic errors. Every scene leaves you wondering just how much worse things can get for these people. And just when you think it can’t get worse, one more disaster appears on the horizon and the Cooper family seems to be completely inept at avoiding the impending catastrophe. It's a predictable movie to be sure, but that doesn't keep it from being entertaining.
Because this is a Disney family flick, it never gets too awkward or serious and maintains a fun feeling. It’s fun because a lot of what happens is easily relatable. You never want to embarrass yourself in front of the person you like. You always want to make a good impression at a job interview. You always try to nail the tough project at work. In short, you always want things to go well, but for whatever reason, some cosmic force seems to decide today is the day for everything to go wrong. It's how you deal with disaster that defines who you are. You could freak out and have a meltdown, or you can power through and try to turn a bad thing in something not quite so embarassingly terrible. The scenarios that unfold are realistic, albeit a bit exaggerated for comedic effect, but it’s easy to place yourself in the characters’ shoes and have a chuckle while giving thanks it isn’t you that just lit yourself on fire in front of your future employer.
Yes, this is a “family togetherness” movie, but it’s also a halfway decent one. Everyone in the cast fits their role just right so as to be believable and not be too picturesque. Steve Carell delivers most of the comedic moments but in a restrained and very nice “Dad-like” way. Jennifer Garner does a fine job as an over-worked mother who misses the big moments in her kid’s lives. Dylan Minnette and Kerris Dorsey’s portrayal of high-energy overbearing older siblings are also pretty fun. Ed Oxenbould’s performance as the title character is pretty solid as the film ultimately rests on him. While there may be a couple dramatic speeches he can’t quite carry, he does a fine job bringing the character to life. There’s also a great little cameo from Dick Van Dyke that, as a 32 year old who grew up watching ‘Marry Poppins,’ I found pretty darn funny.
‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’ is a family film that most everyone in the family should enjoy to some extent. It’s not 100% geared for small kids and there’s plenty of material for the parents to enjoy. At a scant 81 minutes, it doesn’t require a lot of commitment, but at the same time, I wish some of the happenings had more room to breathe. As a “One Crazy Day” movie - it works, but if feels like some scenes or connecting tissue got left on the cutting room floor making the frequent poignant moments towards the end feel forced rather than genuinely earned.
In the end, it’s still fun. It isn’t the kid’s book exactly, but it takes the general premise and themes and runs with them into a zany, madcap direction. It’s worth taking a look at and discovering if you and your family. If this one doesn't get a laugh, you at least still have the book to enjoy.
While not an enormous hit, Disney certainly didn’t skimp for this 2.35:1 presentation. This is a very colorful movie and colors look bright and natural and give the right amount of pop. Flesh tones are also thankfully very human and life-like as people don’t appear overly pink or too sickly.
Detail never suffers as fine hairs and intricate designs in clothing and scenery come through nicely. For a movie that’s fairly bright over all, night scenes look equally strong and realistic. Black levels and shadows are pretty good and create a decent sense of depth. There aren’t any serious crush issues to note other than during the “Peter Pan” scene. It did feel like contrast was tweaked a bit during this scene as well but thankfully it's only a brief moment in the movie. All in all it’s a pretty nice image to look at and lends to the movie nicely.
‘Alexander’ is given a nice 5.1 DTS-HDMA track to hit your surround sound system with. This is a movie where sounds come from all angles. Part of the comedy comes from how things can be calm and quiet one moment and in the next, the mix can hit the highs as any number of disasters take place. Thankfully this doesn’t mean your sound system won’t be able to keep up. Imaging is a lot of fun here, particularly during the “Driver’s Test” moment where you have screeching tires, screaming people, and smashing metal come through with great clarity and doesn't blow out the mix. Similarly for the film’s quiet moments - and there are many - voices come through with fantastic clarity. A great mix all in all.
Also present on this disc is an English 2.0 Descriptive Audio track with French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital tacks.
Supplements for this release are light and easy. Considering this was only a modest hit for The Mouse House, they assembled a fine assortment of extras.
Alexander… In Real Life (HD 5:18) This is a very brief history of the book as we get to meet the author of the original kid’s book, Judith Viorst and her son, the real life Alexander. It’s fun to learn how the book became a hit and how it impacted their lives.
Snappy Crocs And Punchy Roos: The Australian Outback Yard Party (HD 7:12) A cute quick look at all of the Australian animals that make an appearance towards the end of the film. Also we’re given a sound reason why alligators are frequently used as substitutes for crocodiles!
Walkabout: A Video Diary (HD 6:15) Alexander star Ed Oxenbould’s on set video diary punctuated with cast interviews and information about the casting process.
And The Delightful Magnificent Very Good Bloopers (HD 3:34) There are a few funny bits that got the ax, usually revolving around the baby actor playing Trevor, or the terrifying mannequin stand in. You could tell Carell had a good time playing with that thing and I wish there were more of these scenes. Overall they’re short cuts and pretty disposable.
“Hurricane” By The Vamps - Music Video (HD 3:59) Just a simple music video.
It can be difficult to undertake any kind of adaptation of a literally classic - let alone one that has been a favorite children’s book for over 30 years - but Disney brings ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’ to life in fine form. It’s a fairly innocent piece of family entertainment that smartly sets out to make you laugh for 80 minutes. Considering the track record for classic kids book adaptations, this could have turned out much wose. The solid picture and sound quality with a smattering of decent extras makes this Blu-ray release a worth while investment.