Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - Like a good dessert... 3.5 stars

Classic children's books have proven to be great source material for the big screen. Can this short children's story manage to capture people's imagination?  

Walking into the cinema...
This movie suffers from the most difficult name in cinematic history. Trying to explain what film we were going to see caused a tongue tying experience. Steve Carell could not even remember the full name of the film on Jimmy Fallon. But, even with the difficulty of the name will this story be memorable or will it just be another run of the mill, coming of age story? 

Cinematic value: 3.5 stars      Family value: 3.5 stars      Overall rating: 3.5

         This is a retelling of Alexander's story, while taking from the concept of the classic children's book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Director Miguel Arteta (Cedar Rapids) reworks the tale and improves it for a modern audience. The central character is pre-teen Alexander (), who is dealing with the challenges of his family and their supposed perfect existence. His mum, Kelly Cooper () is an up and coming publishing executive, his dad, Ben Cooper () seems to love his role as the stay at home 'fommy' (father/mommy) and his siblings Anthony, Emily and baby Trevor all appear to live in a bubble of positivity, except for Alexander. This family comes off as saccharine sweet and begins to leave the bitter after taste of Sweet and Low, but that is short lived. Arteta allows for a glimpse into some of the potential cracks in their seemingly, sugar-coated lives. On the day prior to Alexander's birthday, all is going wrong for him. After experiencing the horrors of peer pressure, rejected love and life as the middle child, he wishes that his family would all get a glimpse into the realities of his life and hopes to earn some sympathy. This is the cue for the fated day that follows. Reminiscent of Liar, Liar, but with the whole family pulled into Alexander's  reality-check wish. The turn of events cause an implosion of their lives and the reflections of how they respond to the multitude of difficulties. On the other side of the story, Alexander begins on an upward trajectory of good fortune, but manages to keep his feet grounded as his family's lives fall apart. Even with the predictability of many of the experiences and the cliched delivery, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day was fun for all.
         There is a whisper of the original story, but the concept is written for a modern audience. What makes for a great experience at the theatre is the director's dismantling of the lead characters lives and the political correctness that can plague the modern family. The disastrous effects of modern technologies on the lives of high schoolers and families, the pressures of life and the distraction of the innocence of life are a backdrop for this dualistic tale. Yet, even with modern conveniences, the film shows that nothing is new under the sun and the trials of today are no different than those of the past. Alexander is cast perfectly as an awkward, but endearing boy who is trying make his way in the world. His character lives with the frustrations of life, but he never deliberately conveys a  vindictiveness that occurs in many coming of age films. Arteta seems to give a nod to the John Hughes films of the 80s, minus the excessive language or the teen sexualisation, and merely has fun with the film about family life. The story is over the top in delivery, but the characters sit nicely within the world that has been developed for them. Carell is convincing as the try-hard, but caring father and manages to hold back from his typical overacting. Garner successfully plays the vulnerable, but stable mother figure who always seems to want to be home with the family. Watching the family work through the many  adversities that exist in a modern society was refreshing. Especially since many of the issues of political correctness were dismissed for the sake of keeping the family intact. The central theme of the film held true to families dealing with the realities of life and allows for Arteta to be forgiven for his stereotypical portrayal of Australia.  
       Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is like eating a good dessert. It is delicious and sweet, but once the experience is over, it is forgettable. The film will not win any awards for acting or originality, but it was a joy to experience. It is a film that is acceptable for any age group, with the warning of some language and pre-teen humour. The dialogue between the family members makes for some of the most endearing scenes this year. The familial humour comes from the close proximity they are to real life. In the end, the film dismantles the notion of 'fate' within the story line and the on-screen family comes to realise that bad days happen and what matters most is the response to the day's challenges. As a life lesson film, Alexander is a fun film that can be enjoyed by anyone in the family. A small warning to our Australian friends, if you take offence at Australian stereotypes, you might want to give this film a miss, but you would be missing out on a good film. This is a good family film that is worth the time at the cinema. 

Leaving the cinema...
The family walked out of the theatre laughing and smiling. It was a joy to go to a family film that was fun and had a positive message. The concept was simple, but the delivery was enjoyable. Also, we are right there with you Alexander, I think I will move to Australia. Goodonya, mate. 

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 
1. What does the Bible say about fate?  (Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesian 2:10)
2. What is the value of family? (Proverbs 1:8, Ephesian 6:1-2)
3. Where is real hope found? (Romans 8:24-25, Hebrews 11:1,7)

Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews