Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Ed Oxenbould as Alexander © DIsney
Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) wakes up with gum in his hair. All photos © Disney.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a family favorite at bedtime. My daughter loves to flip through my husband’s battered old copy of the book, and on her own bad days has been known to moan that she is planning to move to Australia. The new movie, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, out today from Disney, keeps the spirit of the original, but updates it for modern viewers to make it a pleasantly fun (if not slightly mindless), quick-paced family flick.

Little homages from the picture book pop up in the film, including some of the characters (like his nemesis Philip Parker) and starting off Alexander’s bad day with discovering gum in his hair. My favorite touch, though, is that the film’s Alexander adores Australia, and talks about it often. The similarities end there, and the modern family’s tale is all their own.

Alexander, after having his terrible, horrible… well, you know, makes a birthday wish that his seemingly perfect family would understand what it’s like to be in his shoes for the day. What follows is a slapstick comedy that should get some guffaws out of parents and kids alike. Steve Carell is on point as the good-natured Ben Cooper, excelling as usual at physical comedy. With some toilet humor, Jennifer Garner shouting “penis!” repeatedly, and jokes featuring a teenager accidentally drunk on cold medicine, it’s not quite appropriate for the littlest moviegoers, but grade-school kids will chuckle at the antics of the cast.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

It’s best not to think too hard about what’s happening in the movie; just sit back and enjoy the silly ride. Why would any sane family plan a birthday party the same night as their daughter’s play and their son’s prom? How do they afford an extravagant party with one parent out of work? Wait, see, I’m thinking too much about it. This is meant to be a feel-good movie, and it succeeds, reminding us all that you have to take the bad days with the good.

Is there anything for geek parents to like?

Dylan Minnette, who plays Anthony, was in last week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode as the ice-powered villain Blizzard. He transforms effortlessly into a typical teen, but I half-expected him to freeze his prom date.

When Ben (Carell) goes to his game company interview, you can catch some random game concept art on the wall, including Mass Effect 2. This entertained me way more than it probably should have.

With just 81 minutes of running time, the film never drags and moves briskly, perfect for kids’ attention spans. Your kids will enjoy the laughs and you’ll enjoy turning off your brain and munching popcorn.

GeekMom attended a promotional movie screening for review purposes.

Kelly Knox is a freelance writer in Seattle, WA, where she contributes to local parenting magazines. She also writes for, Geek & Sundry, Forever Young Adult, and more. You can find crafts and art projects for geeky families at her blog The St{art} Button.