Thursday, October 9, 2014

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: A Parent's Guide



Last week we were invited by Disney to check out “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Day”, their new family film staring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner.

Alexander is sick and tired of being the non-perfect member of his perfect family. Dad is a baby-and-me-going, birthday-party-planning, stay-at-home-super-dad aka “Fommy” (Father Mommy as coined by his yoga instructor). Mom is a hot shot at book publisher, his older brother is handsome and popular, and his older sister is the angelic voiced star of the school play. His baby brother is an adorable and because of his age, needs (and gets) a lot of attention.

The main conflict comes when a popular boy at Alexander’s school announces that he is throwing a huge birthday party the same day Alexander had planned his. Not only is Alexander’s crush planning on attending the rival’s party, so is Alexander’s best friend! Feeling jealous and sad, Alexander makes a wish on his birthday candle that his “perfect” family would understand what it’s like to have a day as bad as one of his.

And WHAT a bad day each of them has! As a parent I really, really laughed at the challenges Alexander’s Dad felt having to drag the baby to a job interview at a way younger-skewing video game company. Alexander’s mom has to commute across town on a bicycle in high heels to prevent a disastrous book reading with a mis-printed children’s book.

His siblings don’t fare much better. His sister, trying to soothe a flu before opening night, drinks a bit too much cough syrup and performs Peter Pan while inebriated. His brother suffers a misunderstanding with his girlfriend and then fails his driver’s exam in the most spectacular fashion possible.

So, should you bring your 5 year old to see “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Day”?

I brought Super-Dad and seven year old Kitty along. Kit had a hard time waiting for the punchlines. It all just seemed very extreme and mildly upsetting to her, she was just a bit too young to really enjoy the schadenfreude inherent in a comedy of errors. There were definitely moments where she laughed, but they weren't as frequent as SD and I. Some of the themes were a bit too more mature for her as well. Certainly nothing too objectionable, just a little “old” for her. There was a bit of cyberbullying, some rough language “crap, idiot”, and the young teen sister accidentally gets drunk on cough syrup.

Younger kids may not get some of the more subtle aspects of the movie messages; like how members of the family can have trouble seeing and empathizing with the problems others are having. While Alexander is convinced his family lives perfect lives, in reality they all have their own “No Good” worries. Dad is worried about finding a job, while mom is worried that a new opportunity at work will leave her even less time for her family. Big Brother Anthony is struggling to placate a status-hungry girlfriend. Sister Emily has a lot of pressure on her from her school’s Drama Director. Everyone is so caught up in their own issues it’s hard for them to see that each of their family members are having their own problems. Bigger kids hopefully will understand that the message here is that NO ONE has a perfect day. The resolution of the film actually comes when the family is able to come together to handle their “Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Day” as a team.

14 year old Nate, was having his own “terrible, no good day” on a mandated tent camping trip with school. It’s a shame, too. I think that this movie is perfectly suited for his age. While there is nothing too objectionable for younger kids, I think kids 10 - 14 and their parents will get the most enjoyment from this adorable flick.

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