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


Release: Friday, October 10, 2014


Written by: Rob Lieber

Directed by: Miguel Arteta

As the ruthless Carmine Falcone once told Cillian Murphy’s Dr. Crane in a particularly insightful moment during Batman Begins, “some days, some days just go bad.”

Indeed it does for one Alexander Cooper and his extraordinarily ordinary family. The day before his twelfth birthday, he experiences a series of misfortunes that make for a very bad day. He starts off the day with gum in his hair, which he cuts out himself, then heads to school where more disaster awaits. Alexander finds a way to embarrass himself in front of the girl that he likes (as well as his entire science class) when he accidentally lights her notebook and half the classroom on fire. But the day’s not over yet. When he gets home he mishandles his baby brother’s pacifier and drops it down the garbage disposal, mangling it.

That night, as he blows out candles on the birthday treat he has made for himself, he wishes that the rest of his family — who were largely indifferent to his complaints at the dinner table earlier — would experience what it’s like to be him for just one day. He blows out the candles and the moon rises to take the sky, all cliché-like and shit.

Alexander and the . . . my goodness that’s an exhausting title . . . isn’t the kind of comedy most people flock to for the star talent, though the cast is no slouch. The Coopers are headed by hard-working mom Kelly (Jennifer Garner) who’s eying a promotion at the publishing company she’s been working with for some time; and recently laid-off dad, Ben (Steve Carell), who’s just landed an interview with a gaming company.

Beyond Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) there’s big brother Anthony (Logan Lerman. . . er, rather, Dylan Minnette) and Emily is the in-betweener sister (Kerris Dorsey). The aforementioned are amusing in equal measure, yet the real highlight of the show should be baby Trevor (there’s those adorable Vargas twins again, Elise and Zoey) who has a green mouth for most of the episode. That these people are naturally funny and these characters come across as good, decent people gives weight to the low-brow ambition of this adaptation of Judith Viorst’s 1972 novel of the same long-winded name.

Modern script aims at recapturing the essence of the short children’s book, and at only 81 minutes in length, one’s led to believe there isn’t a great deal of deviation in the narrative. Director Miguel Arteta (Cedar Rapids; Youth in Revolt) maximizes old-school slapstick appeal and takes a keen interest in the concept of Murphy’s Law. What can go wrong, will go wrong and for these poor people, quite literally everything does. The parents wake up past their alarms on the morning of Kelly’s promotion and Ben’s job interview; Emily wakes up with a fever and Anthony goes on to fail his driver’s test which he had hoped to pass so he could drive his date to the prom that night.

When the wheels really fall off the wagon is when the diminutive little audience is likely to find this film at its most fun and for the adult portion, at its most ridiculous. Clearly the screenwriters cherish the anarchistic set-up. It’s evident in the giddy energy the entire cast summons as they wake up the next day, direct recipients of Alexander and his wishes for them to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But does it really work out that way for the lot of them? That’s why you should watch and find out for yourself.


3-0Recommendation: If you’ve had a terrible day, here’s something you should see to get your perspective on. The movie is predictable, dumb fun. Of course there’ll be massive compromises made on the part of any parent willing to take their kids to see this as there isn’t much for more matured minds to latch onto here. That said, this is, simply put, good old-fashioned harmless fun. It features solid PG-rated performances from its A-list leads and even some decent ones from the young folk. I actually really enjoyed this silly farce, probably more than I should have as a late twenty-something.

Rated: PG

Running Time: 81 mins.

Quoted: “His face is . . . all green.”

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25 thoughts on “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

  1. Pingback: Goosebumps | digitalshortbread

    • Oh I know what you mean. I have three feature film reviews backed up right now. That might not sound a lot but I take soooo long slaving over these things that sometimes I wonder if I will ever get to reviewing Kill the Messenger. Or The Double. Or . . . anything !

      Tee-hee, Alexander is a pretty silly affair but you’re right, totally harmless and agreeable on a basic entertainment/comedy level.


  2. …Can I just say that I am quite frankly amazed that you managed to open a review of this particular movie with a quote from freaking Batman Begins??? That, my friend, is a feat in and of itself. Hahaha. I’ve been kind of surprised to see so much positive feedback for this film, but good for it! God knows the world needs some decent family films again. Seems like we haven’t had many of them lately. Great review, Tom! 🙂


    • 😀 Hahaha I’m glad you took notice of the Batman reference haha it was a bit of a stretch, but hey. The quote still applies!!!!

      Yeah I can’t lie and say that family-friendly films are my preference but there is definitely room on this page for these types of things. I have always made a point to diversify DSB, and here we go!!!! Tee-hee. Now, onto musicals. . . Cuz I’m sorely SORELY lacking in those. Also, westerns.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey, you stretch to make room for Batman alllll you want, dude. Hahaha. 😉 I feel you–I’m almost completely lacking in musicals and westerns on my blog, too. In our defense, though, nobody comes out with them anymore! Although I am all OVER Into the Woods when it comes out. 😀


  3. I enjoyed this, but wouldn’t really recommend it to someone unless they had young kids they wanted to take to the movies. It felt more like a TV movie on the Disney channel, albeit a solid one.


    • Very true. And a very spur-of-the-moment watching for me. I was near the theater and noticed I had a free movie pass in my pocket still, so I thought ‘Why not?’ As it turns out, I could have used that pass on probably some better stuff that wasn’t immediately released, but I also could have gone in blindly to see another thing that would’ve been awful. (Hint: I was considering ‘Addicted.’) 😉


    • Pretty good call there Robbin. This wasn’t a bad one but in no way does it need to be experienced on the big screen. Thanks for the comment again.


  4. I agree with Dave. That sounds amazing. If I was a father (won’t be for another 2949433329023 years), this seems like the perfect movie to show my kid. A family comedy that isn’t terrible. That stars MICHAEL SCOTT.

    I’ll still have to watch it myself though haha.


    • My god, you or I having families of our own — now that’s true horror!!!! Lol, kidding (about you, anyway.) I’m sure you’d raise a fine den of Little Louies. Just hope they can stay out of trouble, unlike these folks. This was such a silly outing that I am impressed to go back and see the 6/8 still. And I wrote the damn review! Hahah


  5. Hey, sometimes PG-humor is funny too, right? I’m in my later 20s, and that humor appeals to me sometimes. Really nice review, Tom! I wasn’t considering this one until DVD, but it sounds like you really enjoyed it. I might give this a chance if I make it to the theater again soon!


    • Ack! I skipped over so many comments here (apparently)! Sorry for that.

      Thanks for stopping by again Kristen, we’re becoming quite regular commentors, I love it!!! 🙂

      Alexander is a perfect escape for a little while. This was a really random venture for me, I had a free movie ticket and figured I’d use it one afternoon. I could have applied it to a lot worse things, I think. 😉

      If you see it, you’ll have to let me know what you think of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No prob! You bet. I really enjoy reading your posts – definitely happy to add a thoughtful comment where I can!

        It sounds like fun. I couldn’t quite get myself to go see it yet, but I may give it a try tomorrow if I can’t find another movie to see. I’m sure I’ll probably like it, but it’s not the type of movie I’m in the mood to see, if that makes sense! Haha.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I somehow missed all of these comments. . . .forgive me, please! 😀

      I still can’t believe the digital projection issues you had with Fury. That’s . . . .erm, in-fury-ating?

      Whereas this one you could miss like ten minutes due to technical difficulties and still understand everything that’s going on. No two ways about it, this one’s a simple one. But I was feeling in a simple-movie kind of mood this day so I felt like checking it out. Was a good time and I recommend a family viewing night with it.


  6. Enjoyed this a hell of a lot more than I anticipated. Solid counterprogramming to what is out right now. Quick, painless, 81 minutes at the theater with some solid laughs here and there. Good review sir.


    • You know what man, so did I! That’s mostly why I think I rated this one a 6 instead of a 5/8, b/c honestly this movie is barely a movie. It might have worked as a short film even better, but like you said it was quick and painless and entirely inoffensive. Thanks for the comment


  7. “Giddy energy” and “81 minutes” are the most appealing characteristics of this film for me. Nice review 🙂


    • Cheers Dave. If these are two qualities you seek, you shall find them in no short measure. (Except for the total minutes, obviously. Lol). I enjoyed Alexander more than I should have, there’s no doubt about it but it’s not a bad film by any means.


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