Friday, April 24, 2015

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

Production Team:  Disney/Jim Henson; Miguel Arteta, Director; Ron Lieber, Screenplay

Rating:  * (1 star out of 3 possible, C-)
              Recommended with Reservations

Audience:  4th Grade and up, PG

I couldn't pass up the chance to help families avoid this weak effort by Disney to adopt a beloved children's book.  My family sat through 80 painful minutes with barely a chuckle, waiting for the storyline to improve, for the actors to improve, for the writing to improve, for the movie to improve.  Really, I feel it is more of a "D" effort, but I gave it a "C" as the family at least comes together in the end to support each other.

It seems like Disney spent all their money on Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner to play the parents, and there was no money left to hire talented young actors to play the kids.  Steve and Jennifer did not have much of a script to work with, but if there are any laughs in the movie, they all belong to Pirate Steve. ("Look!  Me arms are okay!  ARGGHH!")

Perhaps it is cruel to draw attention to a child's speech impediment, but if you want a future acting career, Ed Oxenbould (Alexander), you'd better get that annoying lisp fixed.  Your older brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette), and older sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) spent most of the film over-acting.  No complaints about cute-as-a-bug baby brother Trevor (played by twin girls).

The storyline was tedious and fakey.  Alexander is the family scapegoat, who wishes everyone else could understand how a horrible day feels.  His wish comes true, and the audience uncomfortably watches as the parents' jobs are jeopardized.  Meanwhile, we can find no empathy in our hearts for the teenage brother and sister who only seem to get what they deserve, after watching their selfish tantrums and immature choices for half the movie.

Crude language and teen attitudes make this a film to skip for most families.  Trust me, you won't be missing a thing.

If, however, your family would like a quality substitution, I recommend a film from 2012:  Parental Guidance, starring Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as grandparents trying to fit in with grandkids they barely know.

Crystal and Midler fire on all comic cylinders as they try to win over the grandkids ("Look, Grandpa Artie brought water guns") without alienating their politically-correct daughter, Marisa Tomei ("We don't let our kids play with guns").  This film captured all the love and stress of a busy, young family, with Mom and Dad trying to enjoy a weekend away, while also valuing the grandparent generation and what they have to offer children.  True, the kids aren't perfect actors.  True, there is some potty-humor (what do you expect if Grandpa's name happens to rhyme with "fartie?").  But the script and rapport between actors carries the day.  Best of all, common sense parenting prevails.  From the overly-programmed violin student, to the impossible goal of keeping your child away from sugar; from the scheduled minivan drop-offs and pick-ups, to the organized "play" date, everyone in the family will relate to and enjoy this movie.  We watched it with Grandma and everyone laughed out loud!

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