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Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/10/2015

All Ratings out of



Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/2/2015

What is the most important element of a movie -- the beginning, the middle, or the end? A movie should have a strong beginning, so that the viewer is drawn in. If a movie sags in the middle, the viewer may tune out. However, I'm here to argue that the ending is the most important part of a movie. Common sense tells you that it's the last part of the movie which we will see and thus remember. But, it's more than that. A strong ending can save an otherwise weak movie. We want an ending which stays true to the spirit of the film and also feels genuine. The Disney family film Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day shows that things can get wrapped up a little too neatly.

Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) is not what you would call a happy kid. His dad, Ben (Steve Carell) has been out of work for months, and his mom, Kelly (Jennifer Garner), is very busy with her job. His brother, Anthony (Dylan Minnette) is obsessed with passing his driving test so that he can drive to the prom. His sister, Emily (Kerris Dorsey), has been cast as Peter Pan in the school play, and won't stop rehearsing. Even Alexander's baby brother, Trevor (Elise & Zoey Vargas) gets more attention. As Alexander's birthday dawns, he makes a wish that his family will have a bad day just like he often experiences. And just like that, everyone's day goes horribly awry, with one small disaster coming after another. Will this calamity destroy this family or pull them closer together?

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is based on a 32-page picture book by Judith Viorst which was published in 1972. Unlike everyone else in my family, I have not read the book, but a quick perusal shows it to be a very simple story in which one bad thing after another happens to young Alexander. In order to create a full-length motion picture, Screenwriter Rob Lieber had to take some liberties with the story. We've seen this before as 2009's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was also based on a 32-page picture book. So, we know that some ingenuity can turn a small book into an impressive movie.

Sadly, that's not the case here, as Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day fails on nearly every front. First of all, the book's simply story has been turned into a bizarre version of Liar Liar, as Alexander wishes that the members of his family will have a bad day and they do. What causes this? Where does the magic come from? We never know. This leads to the second issue, which concerns the fact that there really isn't a story here. We simply get one episodic scene after another where we witness something bad happening to one of the Coopers. (At least in Liar Liar Fletcher was trying to win his family back.) The movie's tone is all over the place, as it's incredibly silly one minute and then wants to be earnest the next. All of the characters are stereotypes, save for Anthony, who is the one breath of fresh air here. It's nice to see a teenaged boy who isn't portrayed as a complete jerk. I also question the casting of Ed Oxenbould in the lead role. Resembling a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, he isn't very charismatic and he often looks surprised to be there.

However, my biggest problem with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day was the way in which it completely insults the audience with it's portrayal of "everyday family life". I guess that since Nancy Meyers hasn't made a movie since 2009 (although she has one in the works), someone else had to take up the reins and make a movie where everything will be OK as long as you are rich and white, because, doesn't everyone live like this? It looks as if Kelly has a good job, but Ben has been out of work for seven months. But, this doesn't stop them from throwing the most elaborate birthday party that you've ever seen in their backyard. No, I wasn't expecting this movie to be an accurate portrayal of an economic crisis, but at some point, you have to give the audience some credit. This is one of those movies which reinforces the notion that those in Hollywood have no idea what life is like in the rest of the country.

In the end, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day comes across as somewhat pointless. It's not really funny and it's not really moving. Again, Anthony comes across as a good character and sends a good message about being true to oneself, but Alexander apparently gets away scot-free for cursing his family. The movie is only 75-mintues long, but it feels like twice that length. The real crime here is to see the comedic talents of Steve Carell wasted on such weak material. You'd be better off reading your kids the book and asking them to create their own ideas for what happened next to Alexander.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day takes a line about Australia from the book and runs with it on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain or defects from the source materials. The colors look excellent, as we are truly to true, bold tones here, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image has a nice amount of depth and the image is never soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are fairly well-done, as we get hints of sounds coming from off-screen. The play scene provides good surround sound effects, mostly from the crowd noise. The musical cues nicely fill the surround sound channels.

The Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. "Alexander...In Real Life" (5 minutes) contains an interview with Author Judith Viorst and her son, Alexander, who discuss how real-life antics influenced the creation of the famous picture book. "Snappy Crocs and Punchy Roos: The Australian Outback Yard Party" (7 minutes) looks at the creation of the film's finale, and shows how the set was constructed and how the animals were wrangled. "Walkabout: A Video Diary" (6 minutes) has actor Ed Oxenbould roaming the set with a video camera showing us various aspects of the shoot. "And the Delightful, Magnificent, Very Good Bloopers" is a 4-minute reel of outtakes. The final extra is a MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Hurricane" by The Vamps.

Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long