Overview: A family of optimists must endure an epically bad day after one of the children makes a midnight birthday wish that his family would understand that not every day is perfect. Based on the book by Judith Viorst; Disney; PG; 2014; 81 minutes.
The day: Alexander has had a horrible day at school and comes home to a family who have all had excellent days, who could not be happier. Upset that they do not understand how unlucky he feels, he makes a wish over his birthday candle that they would have a bad day and finally understand him. In true Disney fashion, his wish comes true and he curses the family to have a terrible day. Anything and everything that can go wrong does go wrong for this family. The day starts out with the actress sister being sick on opening day of her play, the baby peeing on the floor, the good-looking older brother getting a massive zit, the dad dropping everything, and the mom unable to start her car. Meanwhile, things go pretty well for Alexander, who watches his family in amazement. This juxtaposition allows for viewers to see this streak of bad fortune as both sympathetic and hilarious, often at the same time.
Good, clean, family fun: Writer Rob Leiber does an excellent job of making this kid-centric book into a family-friendly movie. No matter the age, every viewer will find something to laugh about here. The horrible things that happen to the family members are events that could happen (many of which probably have happened) to any one of us. Everyone, kid to adult, has that one day where nothing feels right, and we can sympathize easily with the characters’ frustration. Leiber manages to make the movie charming and funny without having to add hidden provocative jokes for older audiences, like so many contemporary “kids” movies attempt to do. The source material might lend one expect another cheesy kid movie with juvenile humor and obvious message, but instead I found Alexander to be a surprisingly funny movie that can speak to everyone in the family.
The message: Viewers can likely guess that the movie will work its way to “Happily Ever After.” Like all Disney movies, Alexander comes with a lesson: Sure, you may have seriously embarrassed yourself today, but tomorrow is another day and any negativity doesn’t matter, so long as you have your family. While it might not break any new ground, it’s hard to argue with that moral, particularly when it’s presented in such a charming manner.