Sunday, 9 November 2014

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

World of Blackout Film Review

Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Poster

Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Cert: PG / 81 mins / Dir. Miguel Arteta
WoB Rating: 5/7

Disney don't seem to have much confidence in their family-comedy, Alexander and the Title Which Is Too Cumbersome and Unwieldy To Be Actually Memorable. Released in the UK just after the half-term week, and with a contractually-watertight minimum of fuss, you get the impression that they've already given up on hoping it's going to make money, so they've just shoved it out to fend for itself. I watch more Kids' Films™ than most adults (especially considering I'm not a parent), and even I've only seen the trailer for it once. This might be understandable if the film wasn't based on a very well known children's book, and if Disney hadn't paid Hollywood mainstreamers Jennifer Garner and Steve Carrell to star in it. But y'know, it is and they have.

It might also be understandable if the film was rubbish. That's not the case; it's really rather good.

It's always a live-action Disney Family Comedy™ of course, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, and I can't dislike any protagonist who wears a Star Wars t-shirt in their first full scene (subliminal marketing from The Mouse, there?). Opening with a brief, third-act mid-carnage wraparound, before resetting the film's clock to 'the previous day', AatTHNGVBD*1 has a surprisingly slow build-up for such a short film, although it's this build up which allows young Ed Oxenbould to shine as the titular Alexander Cooper. He's a fantastic, expressive actor; with a deadpan subtlety that reminds me of Paul Rudd's better roles, and does quiet exasperation better than many adult comedy actors. Along with the rest of the young cast however, he's sometimes let down by a clunky script; almost as if the kids' dialogue has been written by adults who have heard of children, but never met any.

The film's adult characters (so, largely Jennifer Garner and Steve Carrell) fare better with feeling more suited to their lines, even if they're far more twee than those of their young counterparts. The film really belongs to the youngsters. Carrell is great as usual, and while Garner gives a more-than-acceptable performance, she's ultimately quite forgettable (although maybe that's down to the character). The unevenness of the script could be because we're seeing everything from Alexander's point of view, of course, and this is how he views and experiences his contemporaries. Or it could just be slightly shonky writing for a live-action family comedy. AatTHNGVBD*2 seems to be a stronger movie once the carnage of the second act and "The Very Bad Day" kicks in, although this is at the price of having Alexander become a bystander, watching his family become enveloped in the bad luck he's become inured to.

It's also worth noting that the reason the Cooper family have the worst day of their collective lives, is a benignly petulant wish made by young Alexander on the eve of his birthday, fed up after a crappy day at school. Considering this is the backbone of the story (and considering this is a Disney film we're talking about), this plot-point is all but buried, so the realisation, apology and redemption at the end of the film loses some of its weight. That doesn't matter too much, though, because for its execution and target audience, AatTHNGVBD*3 works very well indeed. Keep in mind that if this film was a 15 Certificate, it'd star Jason Segel as Alexander and he'd be saying the fuck-word every third line; other than that it'd be almost unchanged.

A very amiable comedy for those who don't mind a saccharine binge every now and again, what Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day lacks in marketing prowess it more than makes up for in spirit. Ed Oxenbould has a great career in comedy ahead of him, and you'll have seen mainstream comedy flicks this year with far fewer gags than there are here.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
It captures the comedy of the film, but not the heart.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
Pretty much, yeah.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
Probably, but I still think there's a more connective film to be made here.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
This is a DVD for a Sunday afternoon.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Will I watch it again?
At some point, but it's not really re-watch material for my demographic.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
Didn't hear one.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
Come on, when was the last time you saw a Disney™ family movie where someone (and a human, not an animal) pisses on the kitchen floor for comic effect?

*1 I'm pretty sure this is what all the cool kids are calling it.
*2 This is what the cool kids are calling it, I've checked.
*3 No, you shut up. You give me a better movie title and I'll give you a better acronym.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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