Monday, March 30, 2015

Movie Review: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Title: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Release Date: 2014
Genre: family, comedy
Author: Disney
My Rating: ***
Official Rating: PG for rude humor including reckless behavior and language
Age Group: 12+ (I would like to say 8+ because that seems to be the target audience, but the content doesn't fit in that category)

Poor Alex has a tough life. Things just never go his way. The girl he likes thinks he's crazy, someone schedules a birthday party the same day of his, and he sets the school lab on fire. That's only the beginning, but multiply it by ten and you might get the idea.
Alex has a great family. They all love each other. But they just don't understand what it's like to have an awful day. In fact, their lives and days work out so well that Alex feels left out.
So in the middle of the night, celebrating by himself with a cupcake and the school Guinea pig, Alex makes a wish: that everyone would know what it's like to be him and have an awful day.
Oops. When he wakes up, Alex's seems to have come true. Alex feels bad and tries hard to help his family avert disaster, but one thing leads to another, and the day spirals into a black hole of awful.
What's a family to do when nothing goes right?

Word of Warning
 Note: I was pretty disappointed with some of the content. For the most part, they were funny and almost innocent jokes. But then there were the other ones that made me wish my younger siblings weren't sitting there. Made me wonder how much they were picking up on. It wasn't comfortable.

  • Alex starts the movie by saying his parents are wrong
  • A girl pukes three different times during the movie
  • Slow motion of a 12 year old girl
  • Term "sexist" is used out of context
  • Character has a shirt that is too low in the front
  • We see briefly pictures of models in bikinis and other tight short clothing
  • 12 year old boys use the word "boobs"
  • The term "Faummy" which means "father-mommy" which sounds sweet at first. But then it makes you wonder: why isn't father enough? Why must a father, who is someone who looks after his children, be seen as playing the mommy's role when he changes the baby's diaper or drives the kids to school?
  • We see a little kid on a potty (no detail)
  • Kid starts a fire in the science classroom (no one is hurt)
  • A man sticks his hand in the garbage disposal to pull something out. Nothing happens, but this is a very bad idea in real life
  • The kids are rude to their parents and, for the most part, the parents do not scold them
  • "Hot" in reference to a girl
  • Alex complains that another kid sent "butt thong" pictures to the whole school (these were Photoshopped, but the point here is the term)
  • Parents kiss briefly twice
  • Naked baby bottom more than once. also, the baby pees on the kitchen floor and later in the sink.
  • Mother stubs her toe on the door and mutters "motherhood" in a tone that suggests she wanted to say something very different. My objection here is choosing to say such a beautiful word in such a tone.
  • Mother walks in on teenage son in the shower (he is, presumably, completely undressed)
  • Mother says, "I have seen every penis in this car" when she is in the car with her three sons and their father
  • When talking about a classmate having chicken pox, a kid says that the spots are everywhere, even "in his butt crack."
  • Near disaster/car crashes avoided, more comical than scary
  • Anthony has apparently been waiting all year to "make out" with his girlfriend in the car. "Make out" isn't defined, but the parents respond by saying they didn't want to know that and leave it at that
  • A girl guzzles cough syrup and it makes her high (more or less)
  • Father's sleeves catch on fire (he's fine)
  • Alligator in the house
  • Male strippers were accidentally hired for a kid's birthday party. Luckily, disaster is averted and the men are told to keep it PG. The parents find this mistake amusing and are glad they caught it in time. The kids don't even know.

My Thoughts

It was funny--kind of. This may sound like an odd critique, but the laughs were short lived. They weren't those deep from-your-belly laughs that leave you sore and exhausted and feeling good after a movie. Not the kind that, if someone were to quite that line from the movie, would cause you to laugh when you remembered how funny it was. They were in-the-moment funny. Which is fine, but not satisfying, and not what I expect from a comedy.

Also, the parents weren't parents. As in, even though they ran the house and worked jobs and all of that, they tended to interact with their kids more on a buddy-buddy level. This was evident when Alex reveals Anthony has been waiting all year to make out with his girlfriend. Instead of speaking to Anthony about this, the parents just shrug it off and say with a little shudder, "I didn't need to know that." What? That's not what a parent is supposed to do, is it?

The movie did have some good points, however. The family dynamics were not the classic bickering family you see in shows like this. (Indeed, "show" is what it felt like. An episode from a TV show, not a well-thought out movie.) The family members really did support each other, and the teen characters were not your typical selfish creeps. Anthony does what he can to keep his girlfriend happy but eventually *SPOILER* breaks up with her to be with his family. They all ban together to create a really awesome birthday party for Alex. They don't want to tear each others' throats out, they want to help each other out. In addition to family dynamics, or maybe in elaboration of, the father sees his role as to protect everyone from harm and bad days. Which is, I think, a revelation of a great truth movies like this often neglect to point out.

I don't regret watching it. But I watched it on break with a week ahead of me. I wouldn't watch it again. I did laugh. Some parts made me squirm. Some parts made me smile.
Three stars seems about right.