Movie review: Have a bad day, everyone

Alexander (played by Ed Oxenbould, above) is a whiny brat who wants his entire family to experience what a bad day feels like. -- PHOTO: WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES SINGAPORE
Alexander (played by Ed Oxenbould, above) is a whiny brat who wants his entire family to experience what a bad day feels like. -- PHOTO: WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES SINGAPORE

Review Comedy Drama

ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (PG)

81 mins/Opens tomorrow/**1/2

The story: Schoolboy Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) feels like things never go his way and that he suffers the worst days - all while his family sees constant success. On his 12th birthday, he wishes that his parents (Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner), older brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette), older sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) and baby brother Trevor (Elise and Zoey Vargas) can all have a horrible day too, so that they can understand what he goes through every day.

Trust Disney to sugarcoat the classic picture book story by author Judith Viorst and give it that syrupy, feel-good ending that the original never had.

Alexander in the book is a grumpy, whiny kid who complains endlessly about how terrible, horrible, no good and very bad his day has unfolded.

And the solution to that? His mother simply says that some days are like that, even in Australia, where he repeatedly resolves to run away to.

For a Disney family movie, however, an Alexander that never gets over his grouchiness simply would not do.

Yes, Alexander in the film still gets his horrendous day - in fact, his whole family gets it too - but the good little boy also learns a thing or two about acceptance and love along the way. That is not entirely bad in itself (who can argue with a good message?), but it loses the essence of the book, which was charming precisely due to Alexander's crabbiness.

Even for those audiences coming in to the story entirely fresh, there is not enough pizzazz to make this stand out in the canon of children's films.

The cast is likeable and the film is amiable and pleasant, but it often plays things so tame that the title feels superfluous.

One of the worst things that Alexander's older brother Anthony experiences, for example, is a forehead pimple on the day of his prom.

Understandably, this is nightmarish for a high-schooler, but given that he is dating "the hottest girl in school" (Bella Thorne) and that his handsome face is still intact, it does not feel all that terrible or horrible.

Australian child actor Oxenbould, 13, in the lead as Alexander, is also too apologetic and sheepish for the role, as endearing as he is.

You often wish that he would be just a little bit more mischievous, the way I imagine the book's Alexander would be.