A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Over the course of their horrible day, the Coopers learn that being part of a loving family is more important than being popular, having a pretty girlfriend, pleasing a demanding boss, nailing a job interview, or just about anything else. They stay positive (and find humor) in the face of adversity, for the most part, and are there for each other when it matters.
Positive Role Models
During the terrible day, the worst in all of the Coopers comes out: Parents are distracted (dad Ben ignores the baby during a job interview and lets him eat a marker), important responsibilities are ignored (mom Kelly ignores her job for a long time after she creates a catastrophe at work), teens make big mistakes (texting while driving, drinking enough cough medicine to basically get drunk before going on stage, etc.), etc. But ultimately they all support each other when the chips are down, and there's no question that they're a loving, caring, hardworking, down-to-earth group. Really, the terrible day helps them all admit and face up to their weaknesses and become stronger as a family. They demonstrate perseverance and teamwork when things get tough. There’s some brief cyberbullying when a classmate takes a picture of Alexander and puts his picture on the face of bikini-clad women and spreads the photo around school. And Anthony's girlfriend is self-centered and materialistic, but she's clearly not intended to be a positive role model.
Violence & Scariness
A few loud pratfalls involving the kids and the adults. Anthony gets in an accident while taking his driver’s test; the van is damaged, and there's some screaming/yelling. Alexander sets some papers/posters on fire during a science experiment, and his dad sets his sleeves on fire at a hibachi restaurant. Dad Ben chases after an escaped kangaroo and gets kicked in the chest. Ben opens the door to his house, and an alligator snaps at him.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Anthony wants to get his driver’s license so he can make out with his girlfriend in the back of his parents’ minivan on prom night. He tells his girlfriend she has a "cute butt." Alexander’s dad accidentally hires three male strippers for Alexander’s birthday party thinking that the "Thunder from Down Under" is an act for kids; the dancers are told to keep things tame just in time. A chaste kiss; a baby's naked behind is seen. The mom walks in on her teen son in the bathroom; nothing is shown, but it's clear she's seen him naked.
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Words used include "butt," "crap," "idiot," "pee," "shut up," "OMG," "sucks," "boobs," "penis," and "butt thong." The adults say things like "oh sh..." and "oh mother!" but don't complete any profanities.
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Products & Purchases
Mac computers and iPhones are seen/used. Trader Joe's is mentioned. A character references Gossip Girl. Anthony is called Wreck-It Ralph, referencing another popular Disney movie.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Suffering from a cold, Alexander's 13-year-old sister drinks cough medicine straight from the bottle (in front of her dad) to get through a school play and ends up drunk on stage; she eventually throws up. Dad Ben drinks at a restaurant and accidentally sets his shirt sleeves on fire.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.