Common sense would argue that you should never release a film with a title so hard to remember – but this is based on a best-selling 1972 children’s book by the now 83-year-old author Judith Viorst.
And the safety net is that ‘Alexander’ is an expensive Disney film starring Steve Carell. Though not as good as his Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and The Way Way Back (2013), it’s a well-rounded drama and many families will readily identify with his dilemma as an unemployed scientist father.
Ben Cooper’s (Carell) son Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) is just another pre-teen kid with three siblings including older brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette) and sister Emily (Kerris Dorse).
He feels like the universe is conspiring against him and on his 12th birthday makes a wish for the rest of the Cooper clan to walk in his shoes for 24 hours.
“I wish they knew what it felt like to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” he laments, blowing out the birthday candle on his cake.
As if by magic, the entire Cooper family endures a day that threatens to leave them heartbroken and penniless.
With nothing going right for the Coopers there’s a certain inevitability about proceedings which become a tad predictable.
But, bearing in mind the PG certificate, this is simple light-hearted, family-friendly fare.
Director Miguel Arteta lets the film unfold at its own pace and, right down to Oxenbould’s lisp, his cast is believably real and not simply Hollywood cute.
Best of all, although the catastrophic set-ups have much in common with Home Alone (1990), the humour is not as vindictive as that trilogy became. There is also a fun cameo for veteran Mary Poppins’ star Dick Van Dyke, and there’s even a bouncing kangaroo thanks to the arrival of an Australian petting zoo.