Saturday movie review: 'Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day'

When I visit my grandsons, we all delight in repeated readings of Judith Viorst's book, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." My husband, though, never read the story, never heard me read it to our grandsons. So when I learned we'd be attending a free preview of the film based on the 1972 classic last weekend, I pulled out my picture book and read it to Jim a few days before.

I read my husband the book so he'd know the real story, as even the television commercials promoting the film made it clear ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY the movie would not be a whole heck of a lot like the book.

I was right. Sure, the movie opens with Alexander cutting gum from his hair, it includes plenty of references to Australia throughout, and it ends with the realization that everyone has a bad day now and then. Other than that, anyone expecting view a film that's fairly close to the storyline of the picture book might be disappointed.

That's not to say it's not a good film. It's pretty fun viewing, in fact.

The storyline of the film ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY is that 11-year-old Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) experiences his worst day ever, yet things seem to be going better than ever for the remainder of his family. So the night of the bad day — which just so happens to be the night before his birthday — Alexander blows out a birthday candle upon a birthday cake which he's treated himself to, and wishes a bad day for everyone in the family so they can see how terrible and rotten such a thing can be.

Boy, oh, boy, does Alexander's wish come true. From Mom and Dad (Jennifer Garner and Steve Carell) to big brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette), older sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) and even baby sister Trevor (Elise and Zoey Vargas), each member of Alexander's family has a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day of his or her own.


Steve Carell always entertains, and the youngster playing Alexander did a pretty darn good job carrying the title role. And there were plenty of laughs and some moments — as is with many a Disney family film — that make viewers want to get up and dance (though the appearance of the Thunder from Down Under seemed a little odd in a family film). And there were a few scenes that took contrived to another level.

Overall, ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY turned out to be a fun family flick — as long as, that is, one's not expecting a retelling of the picture book many of us know by heart.

I wondered what Judith Viorst thought of the Disney adaptation of her beloved book. The following featurette puts all such questions to rest.

ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (rated PG for "rude humor, including some reckless behavior and language") opened yesterday, Oct. 10, in theaters everywhere. Find out more on the movie's official website.