"Alexander” an Effective Reminder of Our Blessings

"Alexander” an Effective Reminder of Our Blessings

We’ve all had them, those days when, not only do things go badly, but circumstances occur that are so outlandish, so catastrophic that we can’t possibly understand how they came to be.  These are the days where you not only wish you’d never gotten out of bed but when you start thinking back on past sins, wondering just what it was you did to deserve the awful fate that’s befallen you.

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Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) knows of what I speak.  The middle-schooler has had more than his fair share of these kinds of days, at least it seems that way to him.  And on the day before his 13th birthday, he has a doozy.  He wakes up with gum in his hair, makes a fool out of himself in front of the girl he’s crushing on, nearly sets fire to the school by causing an accident in the science lab and finds out the one of the most popular kids in the school has scheduled his birthday party at the same time as his, thus insuring that no one will show up. And to top it off, no one in his family seems to understand as they have all had a great day, and always seem to. Yep, doesn’t get much worse than this.

One of the things that makes Miguel Arteta’s adaptation of Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day so enjoyable is that it wastes little time obsessing on the unfortunate events that befall its title character, concentrating instead on all of the positives in his life.  This seems like a simple approach, and one that’s certainly borrowed from the book, yet it’s done in such a way that it never comes off as cloying or overstated.  Of course, Alexander doesn’t see it that way. He feels as though his unemployed dad Ben (Steve Carell) and breadwinner mom Kelly (Jennifer Garner) are overly positive, seeing nothing but sunshine and opportunity whenever misfortune occurs whereas he sees doom and despair. 

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Of course, this is put to the test when Alexander makes a birthday wish in which he hopes that some day everyone in his family could understand what he has to go through.  This comes to fruition far quicker than he could anticipate as the next day dad botches an interview, mom fails spectacularly at work, big brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette) gets suspended from school, fails his driver’s test and is dumped by his girlfriend, while his older sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) falls flat on her face in the title role of the school production of Peter Pan. Oh, and his little brother Trevor eats a green marker

A child’s perspective is one of extremes – their lives are either great or awful, with little variation in between, often vacillating back and forth between these two classifications every ten minutes.  Alexander gently reminds us of this as the title character, never overplayed by Oxenbould, suffers with dignity, which makes the good times he’s blessed with all the more rewarding as we feel he’s earned them. At its core, the film reminds us that ultimately, a loving family is our foundation as they are there to catch us when we fall, always there to provide us something good and safe when everything else goes so horrible wrong. Yeah, it’s a simple message but one worth repeating, reminding us to appreciate that which we so often take for granted.

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