What’s special about the book is it validates a child’s feelings. That Alexander can have a bad day full of negative emotions and that’s ok. I feel like too often we silence children and want them to stop pouting or crying instead of listening to their concerns and feelings. It’s the same reason I love Charlie Brown because Shultz allowed his child character to be down and depressed on occasion.
The book Alexander ends saying “Today has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. My Mom says some days are like that…even in Australia”
What a perfect and lovely message for kids.
The trailer for the movie version of Alex seemed to forget the message by promising silly slapstick and a family having a ‘cursed’ day instead of an ordinary child having an ordinary bad day.
Now I have seen the movie and I have to give it some props. It is not as bad as I thought it would be. (If you’ve been reading the blog it is a total Shoney’s moment). In fact, I can even admit it is a decent live action family comedy- something not made all that often any more.
Alexander has his terrible day where everything is going wrong- nobody is going to come to his birthday because a cool kid is throwing a party, he gets gum in his hair, doesn’t get to work on Australia for the big report and more.
Alexander is played by the likable child actor Ed Oxenbould. The whole cast is very likable including Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner as Alexander’s parents. It feels like a real family and they have a lovely chemistry together.
While Alexander’s day is rotten and nobody seems to understand him (that did call back to the book), everything is going great for the rest of the family. Frustrated Alexander wishes on a candle that his family would know what it feels like to have a terrible day.
Then the next day comes and it is a horrible day for the family and of course everything seems to be happening on that day including a book unveiling involving Dick Van Dyke that goes wrong, a job interview for Carrel, prom for the oldest boy, a play for the girl and Alexander’s birthday. That’s a lot for one day but you go with it.
I guess what makes all of hijinks on day 2 palatable is they do feel semi-realistic- Carell can’t find a sitter, baby eats a marker, girl gets sick, boy fails driving test ect. And like I said there is a chemistry and love between the cast which forgives a lot of silly slapstick.
The funniest scene is by far Jennifer Coolidge as a driver inspector who gives Alexander’s brother Anthony his driving test. It reminded me of the scene in Clueless when Dion goes on the freeway for the first time.
The movie ends with a sincere and sweet moment for the family which feels earned and not as sentimental as you might think.
I wish they had been bolder like Where the Wild Things Are and really told the darker tale hidden in the book. It would have been so refreshing and exciting but as a pleasant family comedy it’s not half bad.
They are smart to not have a villain which would have dragged the whole thing down. (I was worried Garner’s boss played by Megan Mullally was going to be the villain but she’s just part of the overall bad day). The bad day is the villain with perhaps a bratty high school prom girl thrown in for laughs.
If you are wondering the humor is kind of juvenile but aside from a kangaroo scene it is all grounded in reality and not painful to watch like a Home Alone movie. I chuckled on a number of occasions and I think kids will really find it funny. There aren’t that many comedies outside of animation you can go to as a family and Alexander is such a film.
There is some cartoon style violence but not much and some vomit and other gross scenes. The Thunder from Down Under dancers appear as a joke but do not strip which is a little strange for a Disney film. The word penis is also used 4 times in a scene but aside from that it is a pretty tame PG.
So, I have to give them some credit. A movie I was sure I would hate I enjoyed. It’s not as funny or as clever as Spongebob or Penguins but it’s still entertaining and worth a rental. I’m not trying to oversell it but it was just better than I expected it to be.
I’d say give it a shot especially if you are having one of those days…
And remember “some days are just like that. Even in Australia”
That said the book is better. I recommend all parents have it and read it regularly to their kids.
Overall Grade- B The book gets an A+