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Arts Rancho Santa Fe

Film review: ‘Alexander’ goes from bad to worse

The charming lessons “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” tries to communicate get hampered by its hectic comedic excess.

Don’t you just hate it when you experience a bad day? Well, like it or not, those bad times are a part of life, something for us to keep in mind so as to appreciate the good ones. It’s an endearing message for people of all ages, one that can easily be taken for granted.

Of course Disney would want to convey that through “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” only in a more exaggerated direction. Thing is, over-the-top doesn’t necessarily equal a job well done. And you don’t need a big brain to realize the amount of chaos you’re dealing with, especially after reading that ridiculously lengthy title.

To prove its point, the film hurls countless bad things at the title character, played by Ed Oxenbould; mishaps, bad luck, and chaos reign supreme in the time it takes to introduce his miserable life. Not for one second does his day proceed as he’d hoped for, and he finds little sympathy from his upbeat folks, who somehow manage to survive each day unscathed.

You have to wonder, for a family comedy that revolves around a kid whose streak of bad luck is on even footing with the number 13, could things possibly go from bad to worse? That’s precisely what happens when Alexander discovers his father, mother, and siblings experiencing their very own bad days. The question is: can any good come out of this?

Yes and no.

On the one hand, there isn’t much for me to comment on when it comes to story and narrative structure; the only noticeable components are endless mayhem and craziness from scene to scene. I’m not saying there’s no story, but it’s hard to pay attention to what Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner go through when all there is to see are misadventures 90 percent of the time.

I think Disney went a bit overboard with the wacky comedy, at times exercising little to no restraint whenever it came to deciding whether what they had was too much. And when your primary tool is chaos for the sake of chaos, there’s no telling what results you’ll produce. I suppose this shouldn’t come as a surprise: who doesn’t lose control when you bite off more than you can chew?

On the other hand, I’ll admit there were a number of laughs and occasional heartfelt moments that I found entertaining; enough reason to not lose hope. Several key highlights (Steve Carell’s restaurant antics, Kerris Dorsey’s botched school play performance and the Australian-themed birthday party at the end, to name a few) certainly sustained the film.

And it’s obvious that “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” means well, despite its flaws. From the looks of it, the acting is workable enough to express the film’s noble intentions, and the good news is that everybody — Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey — gets a fair share in navigating his or her troubles and recognizing what matters most, even when the going gets rough.

I’d advise you to hold off on watching “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” until it becomes available as a rental.

Even if you enjoy Steve Carell’s work and are hankering to see what he’s been up to recently, I really don’t see how this film needs to be watched in theaters. Otherwise, go in with low expectations.

MPAA rating: PG for rude humor, including some reckless behavior and language.

Run time: 1 hour 21 minutes

Playing: In general release

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