Opening 9 Apr 2015
Writing credits: Rob Lieber, Judith Viorst
Principal actors: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey
Alexander Cooper is one day short of turning 12, and it’s the worst day of his life. Besides waking up with chewing gum in his hair, he learns that no one will attend his upcoming birthday party. Everyone is going to Philip’s party, since it features all kinds of special effects. And Alexander was so much hoping that his secret heart-throb Becky would come, but even she finds it hard to like him after he set the chemistry classroom on fire. Worse still, his family: father Ben and mother Kelly, as well as his two older siblings Anthony and Emily, and even baby Kevon, are so wrapped up in themselves, that they seem to ignore his problem. In a fit of pique, he wishes a bad day on all of them. No problem. The next day (his birthday) total chaos takes over. Everyone is rushed. Kelly sees Anthony naked in the bathroom. The car won’t start. Kelly’s newly published book has a drastic mistake and must be withdrawn immediately before Dick van Dyke (in real life!) can introduce it to the public. Kevon’s bumblebee-shaped pacifier is lost! Ben, who has been Pami (Papa + Mami) to Kevon due to a seven-month unemployment pause, has to take the child along to a new job interview. And it all gets worse with diapers and wee-wee, a bad cold and cough syrup, a driving test and a blue suit, and on and on.
This truly is a fun film for the whole family. It avoids being too silly; the problems seem familiar, and we are glad that they are on screen and not hovering over us. The first half is based on a 1972 children’s book of the same title by Judith Vorst. The second half is new. Producer Shawn Levy said they were inspired by similar films such as Parenthood (1989) or Cheaper by the Dozen (1950, 2003). Actually, it reminded me of the recent Paddington film, even though Paddington is animated and this one is not. There is the same sense of innocence and love, with a moral to the story, in this case, that family loyalty overcomes all complications. I loved the final birthday scene – give me three Australian cowboy line dancers any day. All of the actors are fine, especially Australian Ed Oxenbould who had to learn an American accent to play Alexander. Even baby Kevon was impressive, played by twin girls, Zoey and Elise Vargas. (Becky Tan)