Disney Family Values Thrifty New Comedy Is Quite Cheeky For The Mouse House. Energetic, Mercifully Short & Wackily Sweet Natured.
Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) is a precocious 11 year old in love with Australia who is on the verge of turning 12. He’s the 3rd of 4 children to parents Ben (Steve Carell) and Jenny (Jennifer Garner) and is at that age where he feels he’s all but forgotten about. His older brother Anthony (Dylan Minette) is about to graduate, has the hottest girl in school as his girlfriend and is about to get his drivers license. His older sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) is about to lead the school play in Peter Pan and even his baby brother Trevor (Elise & Zoey Vargas) has a blessed and fully attentive life compared to him. No, Alexander is a disaster who stumbles from the moment he wakes up to the moment he gets home from school. At the stroke of midnight on his birthday, feeling misunderstood, he makes a wish that his seemingly can-do-no-wrong family would just have a bad day like he does.
Based on the book by Judith Viorst, Director Miguel Arteta (Youth In Revolt, The Good Girl) has fashioned a very spritely, very family values, very production line Disney family film that plays up its cheekier side a little more than you’d expect from the studio. The film is mercilessly short, 80 minutes and Arteta wastes no time for the Cooper Family day from Hell to swing into full gear. The comedy ranges from word plays right through to physical slapstick and it all comes at you thick and fast. Surprising for me, a veteran Disney film viewer, was to find an entire gag sequence revolving around strippers and a cheeky swipe at being caught in your birthday suit. It seems Disney’s sense of humour is maturing to the modern day!
Performances are all energetic across the board. Steve Carell’s everyman dad Ben is a sleepwalk for him, but he charms effortlessly in a role that has very little demand for him. Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minette, Kerris Dorsey and Ed Oxenbould are all suitably effective as the perfect, if slightly dysfunctional, all American family and the backdrop of Los Angeles is a warming touch to proceedings.
Alexander… is all wrapped up in layers of White Upper Middle Class American Wholesome Family Values which do saccharine the more wackier elements in play but they aren’t too obtrusive. There are gentile touches on unemployment, the role of parents in modern day families and teenage politics that are all brushed over in service of the comedic elements of Alexander… For younger viewers, this is a bit of fluff with several laughs and a nice local angle that they can identify with. For older, it’s an easy ride that’ll leave you with that warm fuzzy you expect from the Mouse House. Alexander & The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a safe bet film.
ALEXANDER & THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY releases on DECEMBER 4, 2014 in AUSTRALIA through DISNEY