This adaptation of a popular 1970s children’s book is brisk and buoyant, if slapdash – a series of well-executed vignettes that you wish added up to more. The basic premise remains: 12-year-old Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) has a terrible day at home and school while the rest of his family have a great one.
But before the life lesson (that everyone has bad days) can be learned, Alexander makes an early birthday wish: let my parents and siblings know just how awful things can get. The next morning, Alexander’s unemployed dad (Steve Carell) is running late for his job interview, his harried mum (Jennifer Garner) is dealing with major crises at work, and siblings Anthony (Dylan Minnette) and Emily (Kerris Dorsey) have their plans go spectacularly awry.
Kids can come to ‘Alexander…’ for the broad slapstick and bodily functions; adults can groove to the clever Dick Van Dyke cameo and inspired drops of songs by INXS and the Feelies. The movie’s admirable energy, however, doesn’t hide an overall sense of slightness that prevents this from being a family classic.