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Peanuts and Popcorn

Jennifer Garner, Kerris Dorsey and Ed Oxenbould (Disney)

Jennifer Garner, Kerris Dorsey and Ed Oxenbould (Disney)

Finally, this weekend you can find out for yourself why Steve Carrell is chasing a kangaroo and what that has to do with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And it will be a good excuse to go to the theater.

Sometimes when the term “loosely based” is used to describe a movie, it means that the film follows the plot of the original book only to a point. Here, Alexander is extremely loosely based on the book of the same name by Judith Viorst, but in a good way. The 32-page illustrated children’s book has very little dialogue and plot to work with for a full-length movie. “The idea for the film adaptation was to use the story in the book as the first act of the movie,” says producer Lisa Henson. “The second two acts of the film had to be a completely original storyline set during a second day that is even worse than Alexander’s first terrible, horrible, very bad day.” The end result is reminiscent to both versions of Disney’s Freaky Friday. Here, Alexander doesn’t feel that anyone in his family understands what it is like to have a bad day and can’t relate to him. On the eve of his birthday, he celebrates at midnight with some ice cream and a candle and accidentally makes a wish.  What follows is crazy hijinks that one expects from a Disney family comedy, but not exactly in the Disney tradition.

Steve Carell and either Zoey or Elise Vargas. (Disney)

Steve Carell and either Zoey or Elise Vargas. (Disney)

Directed by Miguel Arteta, Alexander may be the first Disney movie to utter the word “penis” and to have some literal bathroom humor. In a way, it actually makes this unbelievable tale a little more believable.

Like a well-made recipe, Alexander has the right mix of plot and cast. Over 500 boys tried out for the roll of Alexander Cooper, but it was Ed Oxenbould from Australia who won the role. He’s a character that everyone can relate with. The wonderful Steve Carell, (who could likely end up becoming the next “Disney Dad”) plays Alexander’s stay-at-home-but-not-by-choice pop, Ben. He hasn’t worked in seven months, so he is really looking forward to his big job interview. Kelly Cooper (Jennifer Garner) is the successful business mom working for a children’s’ book publishing company. She feels guilty leaving baby Trevor (played by twins Zoey and Elise Vargas) and going to work. Her boss (Megan Mullally) doesn’t help matters by dangling the carrot of advancement with the distinct possibility of losing more hours away from home. Her big day is centered on a new book release that will be read aloud by actor Dick Van Dyke at a local bookstore. (A fairly tasteless scene that doesn’t honor such a legend).

Jennifer Garner and Dick Van Dyke

Jennifer Garner and Dick Van Dyke (Disney)

Brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette) is looking forward to getting his driver’s license and attending the Junior prom with his uptight girlfriend Celia (Bella Thorne) and sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) can’t wait for her big break playing Peter Pan in the school play. And yes, things don’t go as planned for them either.

In Alexander’s family, he is usually the only one who experiences bad days. The rest of them seem to just shrug it off and move on. (Similar to going to church in a bad mood and everyone else appears to be happy.) In this story, they can’t. The movie makes it clear that having bad days is normal and getting upset about it isn’t a sin, but it is how you deal with them that makes the difference. They can choose to blame each other for all the bad things happening or they can work together to just get the day over with and try again tomorrow. It is refreshing to see that all of the story’s craziness is tempered by the message that sticking together as a family is important no matter what.

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