Ryan Dosier – The latest live action fare from The Walt Disney Company, in a coproduction with The Jim Henson Company, is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. While the film has a few merits (the greatest of which is obviously Steve Carell) as a whole, Alexander is middling, simple, risk-free family drudgery. It was almost exhausting to watch how forced some of the “modern” and “hip” references being made were. Alexander is a jittery, unfocused chore of a film.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day follows 12 year old Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) and his family. While Alexander’s days are almost always the worst, every member of his family seems to have the perfect life. After a particularly bad day, Alexander makes a wish on a birthday cupcake, wishing for his family to experience a bad day like him. Somehow this works, sending his father (Steve Carell), his mother (Jennifer Garner), his brother (Dylan Minnette), and his sister (Kerris Dorsey) into living a terrible, horrible day themselves. Alexander inspires them to get through it, and a happy ending somehow climbs out of the muck.
There is very little worth discussing about Alexander, but I’ll see what I can do. The plot is so simple and the “surprises” are almost nonexistent. The most surprising aspect of the film to me was a cameo midway through, which ended up not being that exciting or enjoyable. The rest of the film lacks depth and provides solutions far too easily. The humor is childish and rather ridiculous at times, with pop culture references aplenty, most of them from 2012 for some strange reason. I understand that this film was not meant to be dissected and analyzed for its comedy prowess, but there’s no reason that family comedies shouldn’t be sharp and clever.
The biggest shame here is the talented cast, which is completely wasted in every aspect of Alexander. Poor Steve Carell is given absolutely nothing to work with, but he does his best with the sparse content he’s given. There is some mildly funny physical comedy for Steve, including flaming sleeves, chasing a kangaroo, and dancing like a pirate. Jennifer Garner also has some legitimately funny moments, the highlight being watching her ride a bike at full speed down a crowded street. But that’s about it. Very little else about Alexander is funny, meaningful, or entertaining in any fashion.
Kids would probably enjoy the attempted fun brought on by Alexander and his wacky family, but parents will be completely exhausted by this festival of strange moments, awkward dialogue, and shoddy scripting. Not even the great Steve Carell makes this film worth suffering through. Skip it if you can, and pretend that The Jim Henson Company is not struggling for relevance in this age with poor performances such as this.