Is It Cool?: Excellence in Filmmaking
In Disney’s newest family film, a children’s book classic by Judith Viorst finds its way onto the big screen.
It’s the day before he turns twelve and Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) is having one of those days. You know, it’s the kind of day where literally every single thing that could go wrong does? He trips, he gets gum in his hair, he sees pictures of his head on a bikini-clad girl’s body all over the internet, he almost sets fire to the chem lab trying to impress the girl of his dreams, and as if those things were not already bad enough, it turns out no one is planning to come to his birthday party. Not even his very best friend! Sigh.
You might say that Alexander is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
What makes all of this so much worse is that in Alexander’s eyes, everyone else in his family is having the best time of their lives! The way he sees it, his cool older brother has a pretty girlfriend and is about to get his driver’s license. His big sister has the lead in the school play. His mom is getting a promotion, his dad might be getting the coolest job ever, and even his baby brother gets more attention than he does. Alexander loves his family; they are okay folks and you’re never given the impression that they are bad people in any way, they just don’t seem to have too much time and focus for Alexander.
All of this builds Alexander’s bitterness to an explosive level and so, just after midnight on his twelfth birthday, Alexander makes a wish. He wishes that for just one day, his perfect family could experience what it feels like to be him.
What follows is just over an hour of cartoonish, amusing, and slapstick shenanigans leaving us with the message that family should be about love, loyalty, rolling with the punches, working as a team, and learning to navigate life with a sense of humor.
Alexander is probably best suited for 8-12 year old movie goers. It’s charming and fun and fast paced but not very deep and frankly, not all that interesting. The jokes are all there for the upper elementary and middle school crowds—bathroom humor, injuries, adults in silly situations, etc. There’s nothing especially outstanding about this film. Steve Carrel and Jennifer Garner work pretty well as a sitcom style married couple with kids. The other children serve their purposes in the story, the story is told to completion. The nuts and bolts are all on the engine and the car takes us to the end of the road, but let’s call it what it is…a wholly unremarkable ride.
So why the thumbs up? Because I had fun watching this movie. I love that this movie exists. I love that some bigtime actors like Carell and Garner signed on for this project and I love that kids are going to watch this movie with their parents and laugh. See, while the movie may not be very memorable, those family outings to go see it will be. In a world of foul mothed fast action shoot-em-up movie options, this darling little movie does one simple thing BRILLIANTLY. It does not take itself too seriously and it gives us permission to embrace 80 minutes of cheesy fun.
It’s not pretending to be Oscar material. It’s an hour and twenty minutes of family time and a nice escape into a world of silliness. Carrel and Garner are both real-life parents and they both hammed up their performances so much, I can only guess it’s because they were thinking of all of the ways they make their own kids laugh. So yes, that’s why despite this movie having no real reason for getting a “thumbs up” in filmmaking, I’m giving it one anyway.
Also, Dick Van Dyke has a hilarious cameo, so that alone is totally worth the price of admission.
What’s it Saying?: Message of the Movie
Alexander realizes through the course of the movie that maybe his parents have had the right idea all along—maybe instead of constantly bemoaning your “bad days” you should be looking at them in positive ways. Much like no one in the story cared much about Alexander’s birthday party, no one in your life wants to sign up to attend your pity party. The movie also teaches us lessons about family, loyalty, love, togetherness, and being able to laugh at ourselves.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Morality in the Movie
This movie is appropriate for all ages. There are some bathroom jokes, a few uses of words like “crap” and “that sucks” but overall this movie did a great job paying attention to family friendliness.
That's Right. I Said It: Reviewer Comments
Steve Carell’s pirate shirt is reminding me of Seinfeld’s pirate shirt episode and it’s making it so much funnier.
Parents who hate slapstick will love how short this film is: it’s the perfect length for kids. Why aren’t all kids movies this short?
Dick Van Dyke is so perfect reading this story. Oh my gosh, SO PERFECT.
I feel conspicuous being a grown woman with no kids in this matinee….