In expanding the 32-page kids' book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day into an 81-minute movie, filmmakers Miguel Arteta and Rob Lieber take some liberties.
In the film, Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) is a disaster-prone kid whose life is one mishap after another, from scheduling a birthday party on the same night as the most popular kid in school's party, to setting the science lab on fire while trying to impress a girl. Alexander's family members, though, seem to sail through life: Mom (Jennifer Garner) is an up-and-comer in publishing, Dad (Steve Carell) cheerfully plays stay-at-home caretaker, and his siblings are annoyingly perfect. Cue Alexander's birthday wish: That the rest of his family might know, for once, what it's like to have a really bad day.
For a movie predicated on a tween's aggrieved sense of life being haaaard, Alexander does a pretty impressive job of keeping things goodhearted and funny. In fact, it's far less cynical and manipulative than most kids' movies—or maybe it's just cynically manipulating people like me, so I didn't notice? (Donald Glover's in it! And Megan Mullally.) Either way, there's a penis joke in it that made both me and the seven-year-old boy sitting next to me laugh pretty hard, so I'm calling that a win.