The live action Disney family film used to be something that parents could count on at least once a year to bring the clan together for some movie magic. But, then, something happened and as the animation world took over (and delightfully so) in terms of the family film market, live action family flicks from Disney seemed to dissipate a bit.
That changes right now with the arrival of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner star as Ben and Kelly Cooper. They are parents to four kids ranging from a baby (who may be the best movie baby of all time) to an older teenage boy named Anthony (Dylan Minnette). In the middle is middle-schooler Emily (Kerris Dorsey) and a late elementary school age boy named Alexander (Ed Oxenbould).
And yes, Alexander is having one of the worst days ever.
But, that’s where Miguel Arteta’s film veers off from the classic children’s book by Judith Viorst upon which the film’s based. The day after the very bad day is Alex’s birthday, and as he sits over a single candle in a cupcake on his birthday eve, he wishes that his entire family (who appear to have the most charmed lives) would truly know what a bad day feels like.
Good morning, Coopers. Welcome to your Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day!
The essence of the Viorst book is front and center in Arteta’s film and that is one of the most truly impressive things about the movie -- as can be seen in the Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day trailer.
It was often asked since the book arrived over four decades ago: How do you make a film from this thing? Well, Disney, Arteta and screenwriter Rob Lieber have found a way and in the process given the audience a slew of laughs, thrills and messages about the importance of family while simultaneously staying true to one's self.
Carell could be the next Dick Van Dyke with his performance in the Disney live action family flick. That is saying a lot because Van Dyke appeared in his fair share of those Disney films back in the day. And Garner has all the right touches as a working mother who has a chance at career greatness, but is torn when it seems that disasters at work can prevent her from being involved in her son’s birthday party, just when he needs it most.
The entire production either works or doesn’t work on the casting of the title character. Hiring Australian Oxenbould from the thousands that they looked at in a global search must have been like finding a needle in a haystack, or yes, even a diamond in the rough from the wilds of Australia.
Oxenbould captures exactly what it is like to be a child of that age. He is supremely devoted to his family, yet he still wants his spotlight and time in the sun to shine. And it’s clear that when he’s not getting that, Alexander believes that no one (not even his friends) will get the depths of his misery for his horrible day that seems to be bleeding into the next day -- horrors, his birthday!
Our Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day review is proud to report that the Disney live action family film is back and in a big way. Not only do we hope we get more Alexander bad days (sorry, Alex!), but also other films of this ilk where families from eight to eighty can go and each have something on the screen that they find interesting and entertaining.