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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is loosely based on the classic children's book of the same name. During 11-year-old Alexander's very bad day, his 13-year-old sister (Kerris Dorsey) drinks cough medicine from the bottle and ends up drunk, his dad (Steve Carell) accidentally sets his shirt on fire, and his 16-year-old brother (Dylan Minnette) picks up his cell phone during a driving test, then gets into a car accident. Additional mayhem also ensues, but amidst the chaos, Alexander's family manages to support each other and ends up even stronger than they were before. There's also some mild language (butt jokes, "crap," "idiot," "sucks," etc.) and inappropriate behavior (cyberbullying, the suggestion that party performers are going to start stripping, etc.), but ultimately this is a sweet, entertaining movie with positive messages about finding humor in adversity and coming together as a family.
What's the story?
The day before his 12th birthday, Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) is having a very bad day while his family is on top of the world in ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY. His unemployed dad, Ben (Steve Carell), finally has a promising job interview, while his mom, Kelly (Jennifer Garner), is up for a big promotion. His 16-year-old brother, Anthony (Dylan Minnette), is poised to get his driver’s license the day of his high school prom, and his 13-year-old sister, Emily (Kerris Dorsey), is starring as Peter Pan in her middle school play. Frustrated by their lack of empathy for his underdog status, Alexander makes a birthday wish that his family would get a taste of what it's like to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day....
Is it any good?
This is a cute family movie with great messages that tweens and parents will enjoy together. It's based on Judith Viorst's classic book of the same name, but it feels as much like that book as it does Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Alexander, charmingly played by Oxenbould, captures what it's like to be an awkward tween in love with a girl for the first time and stuck in the middle of a perfect family. And, the Coopers at first seem a little too perfect (talented sister, popular son, handsome dad, beautiful mom), but Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day really turns funny -- and relatable -- when the whole clan's day becomes terrible, horrible.
Carell is great at playing a man who initially appears to be the world’s most patient, loving, and optimistic dad -- and he's even better when he's a mess. Garner's working mom expresses a realistic amount of guilt when she stares longingly at her baby, but she really shines when she gets to let loose. There are some funny jokes that will go over kids' head -- so parents won't be bored -- as well as enough action and laughs to keep kids entertained, too.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that Alexander feels ignored by his family in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day because of their busy lives. Have you ever felt that way? Do you think families today try to do too much? What are your family's priorities? What do the Coopers learn about each other over the course of their terrible day? How do their priorities change? What are the movie's messages about family?
A middle school student takes an inappropriate picture of Alexander and spreads it around school, embarrassing him. What steps would you take if that kind of cyberbullying happened to you?
Anthony is treated badly by his girlfriend. What makes it clear that their relationship isn't ideal? Would you tell your boyfriend or girlfriend to stop if he/she weren't treating you with respect?
Fans of the book: How is the movie different than the book? Did you enjoy the added details about Alexander's siblings and parents? What are some of your favorite book adaptations?
- In theaters: October 10, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: February 10, 2015
- Cast: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould
- Director: Miguel Arteta
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Book characters, Brothers and sisters, Great boy role models, Misfits and underdogs
- Character strengths: Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 81 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: rude humor including some reckless behavior and language
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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