Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad DayPG¦ Blu-ray, DVD
The House of Mouse, known for years for being the kings of animation, have certainly been savvy enough to move with the times. In recent years they've prudently bought the Muppets, Pixar, Marvel and most recently Lucasfilm – not bad at all for a Mickey Mouse operation.
This latest effort is a throwback to their more gentle, live action titles from the seventies and eighties, when audiences were delighted by such things as a self-driving Beetle (quite prophetic when you think about it) and body swapping shenanigans.
It's the eve of Alexander's (Ed Oxenbould) twelfth birthday and, as you would expect, he's pretty psyched. Although not quite the most popular boy at school – being on the accident prone side as he is can hold a boy back – he's still expecting a decent turnout for his birthday party.
Then, horror of horrors, he learns that one of the most popular kids at his school has moved his party to the same day. He knows that this pretty much means the end of his party – even his best friend has told him that he's now going to the other one with all the cool kids.
This news just tops off what Alexander considers a terrible day. Although the rest of his family – mom (Jennifer Garner), Dad (Steve Carell), brother (Dylan Minnette) and sis (Kerris Dorsey) – are sort of sympathetic, he wishes that they could have, just once, the kind of really, really bad day that he often has.
The next day arrives, his birthday, and something quite strange starts to happen: as soon as the family are up, it's obvious that they are all in for the mother of all mishaps of a day.
With the animation side of Disney doing rather well of late (last year's Frozen is currently sitting pretty as the fifth grossing film of all time), it's unusual to see that they have invested in this type of live action film. Of course having Carell attached must have been a big draw, but if you take the Despicable Me films out of the equation, he hasn't gone the kiddie friendly route of, say, someone like Jim Carrey: the majority of his films are for a more mature audience.
Perhaps they wanted to pay homage to those classics which were all, almost alarmingly, family friendly. And if that's the case, they've achieved just that. This film is harmless; everything about it is safe. The problem is, by today's standards, it's just not much fun. It makes Home Alone feel like a video nasty.
Thanks to the evils of commerce, children aren't as innocent as they once were. They are all hard-wired to the internet and have access to the kind of material that could make their parents blush. If you threw this into a certain DeLorean (making sure to copy it onto VHS first, naturally) it would delight the kids of Hill Valley in 1955. It would even clean up in 1985 before Marty even set foot inside Doc Brown's time machine.
But times have changed. So much so that it's likely that only a very young audience of, say, mid-primary schoolers might get a chuckle out of this.
It's disappointing to see a director of Miguel Arteta's abilities (Youth in Revolt, Cedar Rapids involved in such a bland and insipid effort. It's pretty much the definition of 'beige' and no-one wants to see that.
It just goes to show that even a titan of the industry like Disney can have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.