When I was a kid, I absolutely loved the book ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’. It was super funny to a seven year old that knew a think or two about crappy days. However, I’ll be the first to admit that I never thought it would become a movie and never really wanted it to be. You know as well as I do that these kids movies like this are mostly garbage. Just look at the ‘Wimpy Kid’ movies or ‘Judy Moody’ for recent examples. They are silly slapstick a with moral messages that beat you over the head.
So, why is it that I mostly enjoyed this iteration on the genre? It’s certainly not just because the movie took its title from the book I liked. I think it’s mostly due to the winning cast and fast pace of the whole thing. There is just not a whole lot of time to sit and think about how stupid some of the stuff really is (or whether this really is a movie about magic or coincidence or whatever). That is, except for the opening.
The first 15 minutes of the film establish Alexander and how awful he seems to have it. It’s just one inconvenient thing after another for the poor kid. His family, on the other hand, is “#blessed”. Everything seems to be going right for them. Alexander’s mom (Jennifer Garner) is up for a big promotion. His dad (Steve Carrell) is getting an interview to be a designer for a brand new video game about space travel. His brother (Dylan Minnette) is about to go to prom with the girl of his dreams. And his sister (Kerris Dorsey) is the lead in the school play.
If you know the book then you know that Alexander is frustrated by his families good fortune and wishes them all the worst day ever. Then the next day just about everything seems to go wrong. His parents sleep in, brother has a zit for prom, sister has a sore throat for the big musical, dad seems to be screwing every little thing up, and the baby will not stop crying. It’s a nightmare of a day for everyone and it just continually gets worse. Which would usually make for a pretty miserable time for me, but I mostly enjoyed the proceedings.
You see, I don’t like watching others suffer. So, movie like ‘Meet the Parents’ don’t make me laugh as much as others. I find enjoyment in a certain amount of the slapstick part of it all or obviously if there are some decent jokes. Yet, the big set ups where everything goes wrong tend to make me more concerned for the characters than laughing at them. The thing that keeps me positive in movies like this is truly liking the characters and, for the most part, I liked them in this one.
Part of the reason for that is that the actors playing them are so good. It’s impossible not to like Steve Carrell in just about anything and Jennifer Garner is about as charming a person that you will find. Then the child actors do a pretty good job as well. All in all, this is a fairly dumb, but quite decent little family movie. You won’t remember much about it a week from now, b the kids will get their laughs and you will see their smiles. It’s just enough Disney to hold you over until ‘Big Hero 6’ hits the spot next month.