I don’t get to the movies very often. I have three kids, a wife who doesn’t share my love of cinema, and a lot of ‘in home’ responsibilities, and so when I do get to the movies it is usually to see either a cartoon or some big budget blockbuster I was able to convince my wife I needed a ‘guy date’ for. So far this year I’ve been to the movies eleven times (seriously, that’s it) and while I do enjoy some of the kids movies I take in, it would be nice if I could see a film for ME every once in a while.
So, my eldest daughter is trying to branch out into movies and television shows aimed more for her age group, and this has me anxious because I hate most of them. She’s been watching those ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ movies and watching those awful Disney shows that pretty much paint adults as complete idiots and encourage obnoxious behavior. I try and ban them from the house, but there is only so much ‘Dora’ I can force on her before she literally wants to punch me in the face. She saw the preview for ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’ and begged and begged and then she got my youngest daughter to chime in with “I’ve wanted to see it my whole life” and then my son stared at me and I knew he wanted to see it too and my wife said “let’s go to the movies” and there I was, sitting in a row of children slobbering over popcorn and anticipating Steve Carell getting kicked by a kangaroo while I was commiserating over my envy of the young couple I saw walking hand in hand into ‘Gone Girl’ at the other side of the theater.
I didn’t hate this.
No, in fact, I kind of liked this one a lot. Where most films of this nature fail because they are so obnoxious in their attempt to appeal to a child, there is something almost reserved about the way in which this horrible day unfolds. There is a restraint that you may not expect, and while there is lots of absurdity here, it never feels overtly absurd. In fact, all of it feels rather plausible (like, on their own, all of these things could actually happen) and so watching it felt kind of refreshing.
Where most films like this focus strongly on the disconnect between adults and children and try and dramatize EVERY LITTLE THING, ‘Alexander…’ unifies its family in a swell of positivity so that, even with everything falling apart around them, you never get the feeling that this family is going to crumble. Jobs are crumbling, markers are being eaten, shirts are caught on fire, pimples are popping, school property is exploding, girlfriends are dumping (lol, dumping) and cars are being WRECKED and yet, even in states of panic and disarray, you can feel the unified front to get on through. Proof of this underlining feeling is found in a pivotal scene where Alexander confesses his blame for the atrocities of the day and his family erupts in consoling laughter as if to ask, “why so serious?”
This is a family that is determined to get through everything together because together is exactly where they want to be.
Critics have rallied against this film, singling it out as being nothing new or just a series of badly conceived segments or childish antics, and yet I completely disagree. Some of the gags seem ‘been there done that’ and yet the overall execution of the film and the character development here (and overwhelming push for family togetherness) makes this something very different from what we’re seeing as the norm for pre-teen entertainment.
With an ensemble who understands how to play off these gags well, and some very memorable laugh out loud moments (the whole Dick Van Dyke scene is brilliantly executed, and the Peter Pan fiasco, Jennifer Coolidge showing up and the constant glimpse of a green faced baby made for well-established gags) make for a family film that is fun for everyone, even a guy who longed to ditch for the movie playing across the hall.
I give this a very heartfelt B+. It's undoubtedly a family friendly kid's film, and as such it isn't going to be the brightest bulb in the pack, but this is a film that really stands out among the barrage of truly repulsive pre-teen fare, delivering a film I'm proud to take my kids to see.