Life for a pre-teen has always been rough, and the perennial refrain of “parents just don’t understand” gets louder and more consistent during the teenage years.
In the new Disney film Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) is living that angst. Every day is a terrible day filled with gum in his hair or a mishap in science class in front of his school crush, and, worst of all, the most popular kid at school is having a party on the same night of his 12th birthday celebration.
Alexander is surrounded by an upbeat recession family — a dad (Steve Carell) who has been laid off from his aerospace engineering job and is now the “fommy” (father mommy) for the baby brother, a working mom (Jennifer Garner) with parenting guilt, a popular older brother (Dylan Minnette) who is about to be prom king and a confident older sister (Kerris Dorsey) who is a budding actress.
On the eve of his birthday, Alexander is already fretting about his doom-filled party: “I feel like no one understands me.” He wishes his family could relate and that they could experience his epic fails. Thus begins the family’s journey into a day filled with failures, and ultimately to a truth overscheduled families know all too well: A family that sticks together stays together.
Based on the popular grade-school tome with the same title, the Disney film smartly strays from the book by including modern-day dilemmas. Carrell is somewhat subdued in his role as patriarch, and more scenes displaying his comedic chops would have been appreciated. Garner aptly plays the frazzled mom, and supporting siblings do a fine job.
Don’t miss Jennifer Coolidge’s delightful turn as driving test examiner Ms. Suggs and Bella Thorne (Disney’s Shake It Up) playing a meanie of a girlfriend.
While the laughs are predictable, this is sweet family fare.