Judith Viorst’s children’s book “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” is only 32 pages long, and has a very simple premise (kid has a bad day, his family has a great day), hardly long enough to fill a feature film. So how does one justify adapting the film? By using the second half to fulfill a wish of Alexander’s that his family have a bad day to understand his plight, only to bring them all together by the end.
Reviews for the film have noted that even at 81 minutes it feels thin, and that the second half seems mostly like an excuse to string together PG-friendly hijinks and comic set-pieces together and bring it to feature length. But even the most critical takes seem to agree that the film is more or less harmless, with praise for the professionalism of Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, and the supporting players (especially Jennifer Coolidge as a sadistic driving-test administrator). Some, like the A.V. Club’s Katie Rife, even suggest that the film has a good message for kids: that bad days help us appreciate the good ones.
“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” hits theaters October 10.
Justin Chang, Variety
An average American family becomes a giant human pinata in “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” a passable, tolerable, not unbearable, totally inoffensive adaptation of Judith Viorst’s beloved 1972 children’s book. Made to exacting Disney specifications, this is the sort of busily contrived, one-damned-thing-after-another farce where cars are smashed and Dad gets set on fire, but it all goes down with a spoonful of sugar and a cheery string of studio tie-ins — it’s PG-rated sadism with a smile. Read more.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
There’s nothing despicable (or terrible or horrible) about “Alexander” — any movie that finds room for Jennifer Coolidge as a tough-as-nails DMV tester can’t be all bad — but it’s a disappointingly inert comedy. These characters should have to suffer twice as many embarrassments if they want to earn all those adjectives in the title. Read more.
Eric Henderson, Slant Magazine
Keith Phipps, The Dissolve
For all the chaos, “Alexander” remains determinedly low-stakes. Ben’s unemployment, for instance, has seemingly introduced no financial uncertainty into their upper-middle-class lives. Nothing that goes wrong feels the least bit unfixable, and things get put back together almost as swiftly as they fall apart. Read more.
Katie Rife, The A.V. Club
Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York
The movie’s admirable fleetness, however, doesn’t mitigate some of its narrative errors—Alexander’s opening voiceover suggests his family is totally oblivious to his role in their misery, which is disproved by a later scene—nor does it counteract an overall sense of slightness that prevents this from being a family-film classic. Read more.
Stephen Whitty, The Star-Ledger