Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
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If you are above the age of 10, the constant ads for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day have probably been driving you up the wall for months now. Based on the beloved children’s book by Judith Viorst, it looked like the film adaptation would eschew the mild stakes that the title character faces in the original text for more cartoonish action. My God, they managed to make Steve Carell look insufferable, and he’s an American treasure!

The film introduces us to Alex (newcomer Ed Oxenbould), a nearly 12-year-old boy who can’t walk from one end of the house to the other without chewing gum magically entangling itself in his hair. While he must endure petty tortures such as popular kids planning their own parties on his birthday, his family sits around the breakfast table regaling each other with tales of all the awesome things that happened to each of them that day. One even utters the phrase “hashtag blessed.” So you know the tables will be turning soon.

Unable to sleep that night, Alex makes a birthday sundae and blows his candle out wishing that everyone in his family would have one day where they share his misfortune. Soon, his dad (Carell) is sitting through a job interview while his toddler covers himself in magic marker ink; his mother (Jennifer Garner) races to prevent Dick Van Dyke from reading a misprinted book from her publisher to a roomful of children; his older brother accidentally causes massive property damage to his high school in a moment of jubilation; and his older sister wreaks havoc during a school play after downing an entire bottle of cough syrup.

The movie works as family entertainment. Director Miguel Arteta may be uneven as a filmmaker (for every Cedar Rapids there is a Youth in Revolt), but his strongest attribute has always been the ability to make his characters likable. While the child actors are fine at their jobs, it’s Carell and Garner who are the life and soul of the film. As a couple attempting to harmoniously navigate their current situation, with Carell as the homemaker and Garner as the breadwinner, their humanity and warmth shine.

This is not to suggest that everyone should run right out and buy a ticket. Believe me, there is more than enough sap to make a Double Income, No Kids couple run out after 20 minutes and catch the next showing of Gone Girl. No, this mainly goes out to the parents as a reassuring heads-up: It could be a lot worse.