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Ah, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day! This was a book that most of us Americans read at least once in our lives growing up. And when we heard they were making a film adaptation of it…I don’t think many of us really cared that much. The story itself seemed unable to be adapted, but then again, I thought the same thing about LEGOs.
So, could Disney pull this off and make this book into an awesome film? Or would the film’s quality reflect its title? Let’s take a look at Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The movie opens up to a family driving home in a van that seems to have gone through some amount of damage including missing a driver’s side door. Nevertheless the family seem somewhat happy while we hear a narration from one of the children, Alexander. Played by Ed Oxenbould, Alexander narrates to us how that all that happened to the family today was his fault. The family soon reach their home and upon opening the front door, they let out a few screams and quickly close the door.
Why? Well, we flashback to the previous day to find out why.
The Coopers are your typical everyday family. The patriarch of the family is Ben Cooper, played by Steve Carell. He’s an unemployed dad who was formerly an aerospace engineer and now spends his time taking care of the kids while looking for a new job. He actually has an interview tomorrow.
The matriarch of the family is Kelly Cooper, played by Jennifer Garner. She works for a publishing company. She’s actually releasing a new children’s book tomorrow with a celebrity reading by Dick Van Dyke himself.
They have four children. First we have high-schooler Anthony, played by Dylan Minnette. He’s mostly looking forward to taking his driver’s test tomorrow so that he can drive his girlfriend to the junior prom.
Secondly, is middle-schooler (I think) Emily, played by Kerris Dorsey. Her biggest concern is getting her lines ready to perform as Peter Pan in the school play tomorrow.
Thirdly, let’s mention a baby Trevor who…does baby things and has to be looked after by his father mostly while his mother is out to work.
And finally, we have Alexander, whom we’ve already met. He’s your typical 11-year-old boy who is obsessed with Australia.
Now, another thing to mention is that Alexander’s family seems to have everything taken care of and things go right for them. Alexander, on the other hand, feels that he always has bad days and things never go right for him. For example, tomorrow’s his birthday and today he realizes that a popular boy in school is having his birthday party tomorrow as well, such that nobody will come to Alexander’s party.
Alexander also accidentally sets fire to a binder and poster during science class, loses the chance to do a report on his favorite country, Australia, in geography class, has to take home the school’s guinea pig, and accidentally drops baby Trevor’s pacifier in the garbage disposal.
Yeah, things aren’t going well for him and he feels that when he tries to tell his family about his troubles, they don’t really understand. Later, at midnight, he makes himself a sundae and makes a birthday wish nonchalantly that his family could feel what it’s like to have a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”.
The next day, it appears that his wish came true. The rest of his family oversleeps and because one of the cars isn’t working, they all have to carpool and share the family van. So, the kids are dropped to school as Mrs. Cooper heads to work.
Anthony battles getting a huge boil on his face the day of the prom with his high-maintenance girlfriend, Celia, played by Bella Thorne. He also accidentally breaks a trophy case resulting in him getting suspended from school. Emily suffers from an incredible cold that looks like it could ruin her performance.
Mrs. Cooper’s problem involved having a misprint in her children’s book in which the word “jump” has been written as “dump”. Hence, Dick Van Dyke reads to a bunch of kids and their mommies a book about “taking a dump like a dog”. This faux pas angers Dick Van Dyke, of course, and causes a stir between those mommies and Mrs. Cooper’s publishing company. It looks like Mrs. Cooper is out of a job because of it!
Meanwhile, Mr. Cooper heads to his interview, but has to take baby Trevor along with him as no babysitter is available to look after him. I mean, what could possibly go wrong because of Trevor coming along to the interview?
The only one for whom things are going well for is Alexander. The popular kid in school got the chicken pox, hence had to cancel his birthday party. That means that everyone will come to Alexander’s party now including his crush, Becky, one of his classmates, played by Sidney Fullmer, who literally shows no interest in him, yet the writers decided that they should be paired together romantically.
After Mr. Cooper’s interview, he heads to school to pick up his kids. They all head to the drugstore to get medicine for Emily who doesn’t skimp on drinking it at all!
Mrs. Cooper soon joins them and after they all talk about their days, Alexander realizes that maybe he’s the reason that their days are going horribly wrong. He tells them all what he did, but they quickly dismiss it and let him know that he doesn’t have that power to curse a day and that bad days just happen sometime. Hopefully, the rest of their day can go better! Think again!
The family then go to the DMV so that Anthony can take his driving exam. Let’s just say that he doesn’t pass!
He’s not the only failure as Emily, who’s pretty much high as a rocket, performs her role as Peter Pan in the school play…horribly resulting in…I dunno, cancelling the show or having her role given to her understudy.
To top that off, the Cooper family have to all pick up Anthony’s girlfriend, Celia, for the prom as Anthony can’t drive by himself. And of course, Celia is simply delighted to be picked up by an entire family and driven to the prom in a family van!
Well, not to the prom yet. There’s still some time and the Coopers make one last detour at a Japanese hibachi restaurant where Mr. Cooper has a follow-up meeting with his previous interviewers. You could say that Mr. Cooper was on fire that day!
Celia, clearly embarrassed by/upset by Anthony’s family, lets her feelings be known to Anthony. Anthony, in turn, realizes that family is more important than a high-maintenance girlfriend and dumps her.
The Cooper family then realize that they’re a family forever even during their bad days and head home in their van. This is where the film began: they head home in their van, open their front door, and scream! Why do they scream? Because there’s a crocodile in their house!
Why is there a crocodile in their house? Because Mr. and Mrs. Cooper planned an authentic Australian animal petting zoo-type birthday party for Alexander and one of the animal handlers in the backyard setting up the exhibits accidentally lost track of the crocodile. He quickly gets control of the crocodile again totally nullifying this whole crocodile subplot.
The movie ends with the birthday party wherein all Alexander’s friends come and have an amazing time as does his family. Mr. Cooper gets the job that he was being interviewed for and Mrs. Cooper gets to keep her job as the video recording of Dick Van Dyke reading the misprinted book became a viral sensation! Alexander realizes that sometimes you need a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” to appreciate all that you have!
And that was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Was it good? No, not at all! Was it terrible or horrible? Umm…probably not. Was it no good and very bad? Oh, definitely, yes!
This movie just shows the challenge that came with trying to adapt this book as a film. It’s an incredible difficult task that really backfired. The plot is pretty stupid and does have plot holes. And for a PG-rated Disney film, this film may make you a bit squeamish since the word “penis” is mentioned like three times
as well as the fact that a male stripper group, Australia’s Thunder from Down Under, make an appearance in this film. Mr. Cooper had booked them for Alexander’s birthday party thinking them to be authentic cowboys and once he found out what they were, he had to tell them to keep their performance PG.
So, are there any good things about the film? Well, the acting isn’t really that terrible, for the most part. I think the actors do a decent job, generally, trying to make their performances be somewhat good. The appearance of Dick Van Dyke as himself is definitely the highlight of the film! I especially love one quote that he makes about himself in the film!
And as bad as the film was, it wasn’t tedious to watch. If I had to watch this film again, I wouldn’t have a scowl on my face throughout the film. I would admit it’s a bad film, but it does keep you a bit interested to see what’s going to happen to this family next.
Summing up, there are much worse live-action Disney films than this, but that by no means makes this a good film!
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 21/35 = 60% (D-) !