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Greyson Garcia
Greyson Garcia

Subtitle Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, ...


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is as long a movie title as you'll find with any ease these days. And yet the film bearing it is shorter than almost all other new movies, running just 81 minutes with end credits and 75 without.Alexander is adapted from the 1972 children's book of the same name by Judith Viorst. It runs just 32 pages, the exact same number filled by Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Sony Pictures Animation managed to turn that '70s picture book into not one but two successful family films. Disney does not seem to have had a franchise in mind, but they believed in the project enough to give it a rare non-tentpole slot on their busy output calendar.Belonging to a class that Disney CEO Bob Iger calls (borrowing a term from Steve Jobs) "brand deposits", this undertaking prompted quite modest expectations. Alexander was never going to spawn a video game, toys, or clothing. With a production budget of just $28 million, it could have been released any time of the year but made most sense when moviegoing is light and so is the competition. It opened on the second Friday of October, about as far as you can get from all of Hollywood's busy seasons. Direct competition was minimal; few would struggle to decide between seeing Alexander, Dracula Untold, The Judge or holdovers Gone Girl and Annabelle. Fellow family-friendly fall lightweights The Boxtrolls and Dolphin Tale 2 were practically done selling tickets three and five weeks into their respective short runs. While it may seem insignificant compared to 2014's other Disney movies like Maleficent, Big Hero 6, and the Marvel blockbusters, Alexander almost definitely will turn a profit, having grossed $67 million domestically and $100 M worldwide.Alexander compares less to the Cloudy cartoons than to Fox's Diary of a Wimpy Kid films. Like them, it centers on a middle school pipsqueak whose life seems to be a series of embarrassing incidents. Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) is about to turn 12. A supposedly typical day for this Australia-obsessed second-youngest of four siblings sees him setting a fire in science lab and getting assigned Djibouti in his social studies class' country project. Just after midnight on his birthday, Alexander makes himself a small sundae and wishes that the rest of his family could know what it's like to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day like the ones he experiences regularly.Alexander gets his wish the very next day. His sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey), a theatrical 8th grader, wakes up with a bad cold on the day that her school's new play, for some reason a stage adaptation of Disney's Peter Pan, is to debut. High schooler Anthony (Dylan Minnette) wakes up with a huge zit on his forehead and learns he has been dumped by his touchy, clingy girlfriend (Bella Thorne) just hours before they are supposed to attend prom together. Mom (Jennifer Garner), a workaholic children's book publisher on the verge of a promotion, discovers the new book whose proof she just approved, is somehow plagued by an unfortunate typo throughout. Meanwhile, Dad (current Oscar nominee Steve Carell), "literally a rocket scientist" who, now out of work, has become a full-time "fommy" (that's father mommy) to the family's baby, blows his interview for a job developing a space station video game.The previous paragraph should make two things abundantly clear. First, this adaptation is not interested in the time period in which Viorst wrote the book. The film doesn't just take place in the present-day, it tries to embody the now and incorporate contemporary family issues. A photo of Alexander's head on a bikini clad model's body gets "text bombed." Anthony utters the phrase "hashtag blessed." And so on. The second thing that should be evident from the synopsis is that Alexander relies on just about every kids' comedy and sitcom trope in the book. The debut screenplay of Rob Lieber feels as if it could have been written by paying special attention to secondary storylines of ABC sitcoms like "Modern Family" and "The Middle." It's almost comical how many familiar elements are crammed into those 75 minutes of pre-credits runtime, from a road test to a dead car battery to a destroyed, irreplaceable bumblebee pacifier. Lieber's script is the foundation of a terrible movie. Fortunately, Alexander somewhat narrowly misses that designation. The film is occasionally lightly amusing. Rarely are its stupidity and sentiment unbearable. Helping things along is the hiring of Miguel Arteta as director, who stepped in after The Kids Are All Right's Lisa Cholodenko exited in pre-production. Arteta is not a name you know, but chances are you've seen something he's made. He has fifteen years of television experience to his name, including episodes of series as respected as "Freaks and Geeks", "The Office", "Six Feet Under", "American Horror Story", and "Homicide: Life on the Street." What do all those have in common? Nothing really, apart from the fact that none of them is aimed at children.Directors who specialize in children's films tend to consistently make bad movies. I'll confess that I'm really only familiar with two of those Arteta shows I just name-dropped. I'll also admit that it isn't easy to notice or appreciate what a director brings to a single television show episode; the show's DNA and storytelling tend to overshadow any stylistic choices made. Nonetheless, I can vouch for Arteta's directing credentials on the basis of two enjoyable R-rated comedies: Youth in Revolt (2010) and Cedar Rapids (2011), the latter of which took 100th place in my recent countdown of the 100 best films from the first half of the Tens. Arteta cannot elevate the material to agreeable heights, but at least he tries. Alexander plays like a lesser Wimpy Kid, a notch below the Cloudy films and two below 2015's standout kid lit adaptation Paddington. Repeatedly, it sacrifices logic to sell a joke, from the unlikely book typo to the reasons it saddles two of the Cooper men with outlandish costumes. Title character Alexander is reduced to something of a nonentity once the design changes to place the rest of his family, not him, at the center of all these mishaps. Still, only a few of the jokes are telegraphed and even some of the ones you can see coming subvert expectations mildly.If you've seen a lot of new live-action family comedies, you know that many of them are just plain not good. You take what you can in movies of this sort, welcoming any surprises at all. For me, the two biggest ones here were: 1) an appearance by Dick Van Dyke as himself and 2) the brief scene in which the word "penis" is uttered four times more than you would expect and probably four times more than any other Disney-branded film in history. Alexander is certainly not a good movie, but based on its appearances and the recent track records of Carell and Garner that it is not terrible provides some small measure of comfort. You take what you can.Surprisingly, Disney forgoes a traditional Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack for Alexander. You only get the first and last of those elements in this Blu-ray + Digital HD set, a more desirable alternative to the DVD sold on its own.




subtitle Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, ...


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VIDEO and AUDIOPerhaps to distinguish itself from the sitcoms it otherwise resembles, Alexander opts for the wider 2.40:1 aspect ratio and more contrast than you would expect. The Blu-ray presents this intended look without any difficulty, wielding appropriate clarity and detail. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is not something you would call terrible, horrible, no good, or very bad. Interestingly, the Blu-ray includes a German dub and subtitles in addition to the two foreign language options Disney usually supplies. Whether this signals a new attempt to court the German-American immigrant population or simply acknowledges that demographic's love of this one film (?) remains to be seen. BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGNThe film is accompanied by five listed HD bonus features on Blu-ray.First up is "Alexander...in Real Life" (5:18), a featurette which gathers insight from author Judith Viorst and her now grown-up son Alexander who inspired the book. It pays tribute to the book in a way the film largely does not."Snappy Crocs and Punchy Roos: The Australian Outback Yard Party" (7:12) discusses the brief, closing scenes which significantly up the film's animal count. Trainers and wranglers explain their work (and why an alligator was used instead of a crocodile), which is also shown in behind-the-scenes footage. "Ed Oxenbould's Walkabout" (6:15) lets the young lead, who is Australian, make a video diary. He wanders all over the set, talking with cast and crew members about their work."And the Delightful, Magnificent, Very Good Bloopers" (3:34) is an inevitable inclusion. Besides bloopers, it includes ad libs and out-of-character actor banter. With a good amount of Dick Van Dyke and quite a bit of a baby doll stand-in, it's pretty entertaining. Finally, we get a music video for The Vamps' "Hurricane" (3:59), in which the young British band experiences some of the same mishaps experienced in the liberally-excerpted film when they are not performing on a suburban front lawn.Hidden somewhere on the Blu-ray is an Easter egg, which provides a 40-second animated read-along of the children's book that Kelly publishes, complete with all those errors. I feel like that gag was really close to being funny.According to its rear cover, the DVD -- which I reiterate is strangely absent here -- only includes the Vamps music video and the "Snappy Crocs and Punchy Roos" featurette.The Blu-ray opens with a Disney Movies Anywhere promo, the glass slipper teaser for the live-action Cinderella, and trailers for 101 Dalmatians: Diamond Edition and Big Hero 6. The menu's Sneak Peeks listing doesn't repeat these, instead playing ads for Disney Movie Rewards, Aulani resort, "Once Upon a Time", "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" - The Lost Episodes, and Legend of the Neverbeast.The top menu plays clips in the center of a collage of rotating stills. The Blu-ray remembers where you left off in the movie if you didn't finish it. It does not resume, though, or let you set bookmarks.Topped by an embossed slipcover, the side-snapped keepcase holds a booklet featuring your Disney Movie Rewards/Disney Movies Anywhere Digital HD copy and an insert promoting Disney Movie Club.CLOSING THOUGHTSAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is just good enough to avoid dismissal with a lazy joke adapted from its title. It's a pretty huge leap from children's picture book to live-action family comedy and not a particularly enjoyable one. But it's not as painful as advertised, which has to count for something.Disney's Blu-ray is oddly lacking a DVD, but the feature presentation is good and the half-hour of bonus material is suitable company. It's not something I can recommend to anyone, but the slim pickings of live-action family fare could make this a more tolerable rental than some other things, if you're that set on watching a live-action family film.Buy Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day from Amazon.com:Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video 041b061a72


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