Written by Rob Lieber
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Starring Steve Carrell, Jennifer Garner and Ed Oxenbould
Alexander Cooper: My parents tell me there is no such thing as a bad day; it’s all in how you look at it. They’re wrong.
Some guys have all the luck and then there’s Alexander Cooper. Alexander is the second youngest member of the Cooper clan, the family at the centre of the new comedy, ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY. It is the eve of Alexander’s 12th birthday and the prospects for his party do not look good. And while it seems like nothing is going his way, the rest of his family is all on the cusp of amazing new things. And so, just after midnight on his birthday, Alexander makes a wish on a sundae that the rest of his family could just once experience life as he knows it, which is to say one big disappointment after another. Alexander’s ill will wishing aside, he quickly learns that birthday wishes do in fact come true, followed by a lesson in being careful what you wish for. This is a family film so there have to be lessons to justify its simplicity.
Now yes, this premise is wrought with predictability and opportunities for schmaltz. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than it is though and, as it turns out, the Cooper’s aren’t such a bad family to spend an hour and twenty minutes with. Sure they’re all fairly one dimensional but they’re also all fairly likeable. Dad, played by Steve Carrell, is a stay at home parent, which is really the direct result of losing his job. He has a promising interview the day of Alexander’s big party. Mom, played by Jennifer Garner, is a power player in the children’s book world, who has a big book launch on the day of Alexander’s party. Older brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette) not only has his prom on the day of Alexander’s party, but is also taking his driving exam. Older sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) has her big play opening the day of Alexander’s birthday. And there’s also a baby to take care of amidst all of this. It seems to me that with all that already happening on that day, they might have thought to move the party to the Saturday night, but instead they decide they will just band together as a family and tackle that day head on. If only Alexander hadn’t handicapped them with his evil birthday wish.
Once the day arrives, one by one, each Cooper family member faces a series of disasters they never saw coming. It’s almost as if Alexander is some sort of super demon bent of their destruction for having brought these plagues upon his family, but that would be a whole other film altogether. Still, like they swore, the Cooper’s come together and deal with their day, disasters and all, as one big, solid, family unit. The set up and follow through may be ridiculously obvious but ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY is at its best when it is being ridiculous. And while the pummelling the Cooper’s take from the universe is reasonably tame at times, making their tale of woe a little exaggerated, their insistence on staying together as a family still got to me a little. And so parents, you can rest assured that seeing this with your kids won’t be the worst day you ever had.