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


To start this will be the only time I am typing the full name of the movie: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. There, got that over with. From here on out we’ll be referring to the film as Horrible, No. Everyone else is calling it Alexander so we’ll be different.

Horrible, No is quite the surprise as from trailers you probably thought it was a bottom of the barrel adaptation of a classic children’s book that Disney just threw a few actors at and dumped into the October slumps. You’d be wrong. While it isn’t the most original film out there, it is one of the better family comedies put onto the screen in a while. The jokes may be a bit tired, but there pulled off with such aplomb and pluck that at the end of the day it all turns out good.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Director: Miguel Arteta
Rated: PG
Release Date: October 10, 2014 

I do not remember the book the film is based on, though I know I read it long ago. I do have some sort of fond memories of it, but if you’re looking for a review that can speak to how well the movie adapts the classic children’s book you have come to the wrong place. Maybe you can figure it out yourself from the plot. Horrible, No follows Alexander (Ed Oxenbould), a perpetually down on his luck kid whose entire family always seems to be doing better than him. As any kid would, he wishes them ill and suddenly the family is stuck in the worst day ever. 

It’s one of those family movies where life lessons are learned, jokes are mainly slapstick and comedy is derived from just how dumb Steve Carell can act. Yet it works. There’s a reason there are so many bad movies that are like and its because its cast doesn’t deliver and it tries to hard. Horrible, No does not try. It is so incredibly simple in its optimistic glory that its tired jokes are actually funny and even the biggest curmudgeon just has to crack a smile at the fun its having.

You’ll notice an image of Steve Carell and kangaroo in this review. Animal humor is often one of the lowest forms of humor and even more often falls horribly flat. It is a perfect example of how well Horrible, No handles its child friendly comedy that a chase with an escaping kangaroo actually turns out funny. Like the rest of the film’s slapstick humor it never actually feels cheap. Is it dumb when the kangaroo kicks Carell? Of course, but the charm of the actor and the fact that they don’t lay it on too thickly actually makes it funny, and that’s how the entire film works. It takes humor that’s funny for children and make it actually funny. 

The movie can get oppressively chipper at points. While the day is uncommonly bad, it never actually feels too terrible. Once the film really starts to hammer on its themes it gets a bit heavy handed at it. Thankfully these moments are over surprisingly quickly, and it makes for a film family that feels cohesive instead of forced into family moments. While almost every character’s entire story is predictable from beginning to end it is this very predictability that gives the film its charm. Somehow Horrible, No avoids its most offensive cliches by running with them.

That’s not to say that this is a classic in children’s cinema. It is far from it. Horrible, No is an inoffensive diversion that manages to pull itself off despite lacking much originality. Where the true charm lies is within its cast. Carell is, of course, is normal funny self, but Jennifer Garner also has a surprisingly layered turn as a mother having troubles with balance work and family life. It’s actually quite a honest and focused look at working moms and non-working dads in today’s day and age and is another example of the film just doing enough different to pull itself away from where you’d expect it to be.

You would really expect this film to be terrible. If I laid it out for you as pieces of a puzzle for making a family film you’d roll your eyes at the pile of crummy looking puzzle pieces you had in front of you. However, as a whole Horrible, No makes a perfectly passable family comedy that will definitely illicit laughs from youngsters while surprising a few parents here and there as well.

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.