Thursday, October 16, 2014

'Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day' (2014) directed by Miguel Arteta

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad movie more like.  When I'm watching films I usually make scrawled notes as a way to remind myself of how I felt watching it. My notes for Alexander... have "THIS IS SHIT" scrawled in block capitals across the page, closely followed by "depressing" and a simple (yet quizzical) "motherfucker?" below it.

Apparently based on some book Alexander... is a typical Disney live action quasi-comedy starring a cute kid and his crazy family.  They are; Dad Ben (Steve Carell), Mum Kelly (Jennifer Garner, older brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette), older sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) little brother Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) and baby Trevor (Elise and Zoey Vargas). The plot, such as it is, involves lead moppet Alexander having a bad day.  No-one gives a shit when he moans, so, consumed with hatred, he wishes that everyone would have a day as bad as he has.

Apparently some dark deity was listening, as over the course of the next day everyone else in the family encounters disaster.  The father's job interview goes terribly, the mother makes a typo in a children's book etc etc.  This adds up to a series of set pieces where people fall over, are sick on things or wear silly outfits.  

Look, I get it okay?  This is cinema as temporary babysitter, something to hold a child's for 85 minutes while their parents have a quiet doze.  Is it good?  Well, by the metric of whether I enjoyed any of it it, no it is not good.  How about by the metric of what it's setting out to do?  Maybe there's something vaguely defensible here.

Over the last five or six years Disney have developed an idiosyncratic live action aesthetic. They shoot in glistening grain-free hyper-HD and digitally crank the colour saturation through the roof.  The grass glows neon green, the sky an iridescent Sega blue, skin of the heroes a moist, shiny pink.  Disney's Stepfordian candyland reality is so sweet it makes your teeth painfully tingle - credit where credit's due this effect isn't easy to create. But  the cumulative effect, even over this svelte runtime, is enough to make me nauseous.

This, combined with the crap family friendly humour, adds up to a movie that makes me want to blow my fucking brains out. The general tone reminds me of a sitcom that's overstayed its welcome, where all the characters have succumbed to a comprehensive process of Flanderisation.  If the idea of a baby accidentally sucking on a permanent marker amuses you, if the sight of a teenage boy in a pastel blue 70s suit makes you snort happily or if Steve Carell boxing a CGI kangaroo is your kinda thing then by all means check this out. (Incidentally at the screening I attended the film played to stony, seething silence).

It's almost annoying that I hate this movie so much as, objectively, it's more painfully average than a genuinely disastrous.  Sure Steve Carell appears to be on doped up autopilot, but at least Jennifer Garner looks happy for the work.  The kids aren't the complete pits either and at least Dylan Minnette as the older brother has a sense of comic timing.  In a way I almost wish Alexander... were completely, obviously awful, at least then it might be vaguely interesting to pick apart.

But it's not.  It's just gloopy garbage cinema.  Worse, it's just mindnumbingly boring, less a film and more a way to flush time down the toilet.  Being boring isn't even so terrible (I sat through and sort of enjoyed Jeanne Dielman for god's sake), but this is a bad, bad kind of boring, so much so that even being angry at it is boring.  Truly, this is my cinematic kryptonite.

So I'm going to close up by pointing out that sure, you could shut your kids up for an hour and a half by taking them to this.  But bear in mind the expense: with tickets, popcorn, drinks etc under your belt, taking two children to see this could feasibly set you back a cool £70.  On the other hand sedatives are readily available (and cheap!), especially when you calculate the reduced dose needed to render a child's tiny body unconscious.  You do the maths.

But don't see this.  It is a bad film.

'Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day' is probably being released at some point in the near future.

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