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Film / Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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Get ready for the best worst day of your life.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a family comedy film released on October 10, 2014. It was directed by Miguel Arteta from a screenplay written by Rob Lieber. The film stars Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, and Ed Oxenbould, and is a Adaptation Expansion of Judith Viorst's 1972 children's book of the same name.

Alexander Cooper spends a day (revealed to be his birthday no less) miserable as the rest of the family are reveling too much in their success to notice his rotten day. After ending up making a birthday sundae for himself, he wishes his family could experience the same sort of disappointment he goes through. What happens the next day is just that...


Contains examples of:

  • Acquired Error at the Printer: Kelly Cooper is launching a kids book called Jump on the Potty. A printing error changes every instance of the word 'jump' to 'dump'. This leads to Dick Van Dyke doing a celebrity reading at the launch where he tells the children to "dump like a dog".
  • Achievements in Ignorance: The horrible day does have a few upsides; the misprint in Kelly's book and faulty reading causes the incident to go viral, resulting in a lot of free publicity, while Ben's disastrous interview actually impresses the executives, getting him hired.
  • Adapted Out: Alexander's other older brother Nick from the book.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The film expands the book by focusing not just on Alexander's bad day, but also on his family and the ensuing bad day they have.
  • Bile Fascination: In-Universe, the misprinted book turns out to be popular.
  • Advertisement:
  • Boxing Kangaroo: One of them escapes the yard and Ben tries to catch him. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Butt-Monkey/The Chew Toy: Alexander, clearly, but downplayed later in the movie.
    • Inverted later in the movie when his whole family suffers, and Alexander doesn't.
  • Canon Foreigner: Emily and Trevor.
  • Casting Gag:
    • Alexander is very fond of Australia. His actor, Ed Oxenbould, is Australian. This is a detail from the original picture book, but it works as this trope too.
    • This isn't the first role in which Kerris Dorsey practices singing and has a song in the end credits.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase
  • Company Cross References: Celia's teacher calls Anthony "Wreck-It Ralph" after he knocks over the school's trophy cases.
  • Crosscast Role: In-universe example. Emily portrays Peter Pan for a school play.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Each screw-up by the family members segues into the next one for somebody else. The events of the titular bad day are kicked off by Alexander accidentally destroying Trevor's pacifier, making him cry all night, causing Emily to rehearse outside and the parents to be up all night soothing him. This results in Kelly's car battery being drained, Emily catching a cold, the parents getting to work late...and it all gets worse from there.
  • Driving Test Smashers: Anthony insists on taking his driving rest on the day when every is going wrong, because he wants to drive Celia to the prom that night. During the test, his driving examiner intentionally distracts him by convincing him to pick up his cell phone, causing him to destroy several parking meters and damage the family minivan, and ultimately fail.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Alexander gets one at the end of the movie.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: A day where Finagle's Law goes into such effect.
  • Extremely Short Time Span: The beginning of the movie takes place in one day, while the rest of the movie happens the following day. For one day, a lot of stuff happens, yet it never gets any darker outside nor do the characters get burnt out until the end, so you'd be forgiven for forgetting that the title is Alexander's Terrible Horrible No-Good Very Bad Day, emphasis on "day".
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: For a family friendly movie, this film seems to get away with a few stuff.
    • Kelly bumps into a wall in the morning rush and yells out a partially censored expletive ("Mother—!")
    • Among the few Disney films to say the word "penis". And in this context:
      Anthony: You saw my penis! (referring to his mother, Kelly, walking in on him while he was changing in the bathroom earlier that morning)
      Kelly: I've seen all of your penises! (She's their mother, so she's had to have seen them naked when they were younger.)
      Ben: Yep... she has... (He's the dad, so, well...)
    • Dick Van Dyke reads a book with a misprint that implies that children should "take a dump" in various ways.
    • Alexander says that Anthony and Celia will probably make out in the back of the family van before Anthony drives Celia back home after the prom, which everyone else is grossed out by.
    • The "authentic" Australian cowboys at Alexander's birthday party are actually strippers. Fortunately, Alexander's parents realize this early on enough in the performance to tell the cowboys to "make it PG.".
  • Homage: To the Disney family comedies of the mid-1970's.
  • House Husband: Mr. Cooper is one while his wife is the only breadwinner in the family. In the end, he gets a job but will remain in charge of household chores because his job, unlike Mrs. Cooper's, allows him the time for it.
  • Intoxication Ensues: Emily downs a bottle of cold syrup and acts drunk while on stage as Peter Pan.
  • It's All My Fault: Alexander for wishing his family would have a terrible day as he had.
  • Jerkass: Phillip Parker appears to be this, since he apparently decides to have his birthday party earlier, on the same day as Alexander. And he doesn't care about the difference between Australia and Austria. Elliott Gibson also qualifies when he posts pictures of Alexander with boobs.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Anthony, especially before the bad day. He then switches between being a Big Brother Bully to a Big Brother Instinct to Alexander he even cancels his prom date with his girlfriend Celia in order to stay with his family.
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Celia and the driving test supervisor.
  • Kangaroos Represent Australia: A kangaroo (along with a crocodile) is one of the animals Ben has hired for Alexander's Australian-themed birthday party. However, the kangaroo escapes and Ben has to chase it along a suburban street, getting punched in the face by the roo in the process.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Phillip gets the chicken pox and Elliot Gibson, the boy who posted the pictures of Alexander with "boobs", gets suspended.
  • Make a Wish: A more subtle example, but when by himself with a birthday sundae, he wishes his family could experience the disappointments he does everyday.
    • He apologizes toward his family that their day was jinxed because he wanted them to understand his pain.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: While Alexander does make a wish for his family's bad luck, there are numerous realistic explanations for each bad occurrence.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Alexander's parents are named Ben and Kelly. And the family were given the surname Cooper.
  • Not My Lucky Day: The rest of the Cooper family go through this after Alexander goes through one.
  • Reality Ensues: Elliot Gibson, the boy who posted the pictures of Alexander with "boobs", gets suspended.
  • Recycled In Space: Mr. Cooper describes his video game idea as “Survivor on a space station.”
  • Rise of Zitboy: Anthony is using a band-aid to cover a zit.
  • Running Gag: Alexander's fascination with Australia. It was the same in the book, where Alexander says he wants to move to Australia (where he won't have a bad day).
  • Shout-Out:
    • Celia's teacher catches Celia and Anthony talking in the halls during class and tells them that this isn't Gossip Girl before breaking it up.
    • Celia's teacher calls Anthony "Wreck-It Ralph" after he accidentally knocks over the school's trophy cases.
    • The costumes for the Peter Pan school play resembles the Disney version.
    • Upon looking at Anthony's tux, Celia says he looks like Willy Wonka.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Dick Van Dyke.
  • Something Completely Different: Having a GCPTR-happy (although not that much) comedy style akin to the family movies of the early-to-mid 2010s, it's quite hard to believe that it was done by the same studio that years ago vetoed a certain film because of its content.
  • Tacky Tuxedo: A mix-up at the tuxedo rental place causes Anthony's tux to be given to someone else. The only tux they have left in his size is a hideous powder blue one with a frilly shirt and a huge bow tie. He ends up wearing this to the prom. Well, he doesn't make it past dinner at least, but for other reasons.
  • Title Drop: Twice - once when Alex makes his wish, and again near the climax outside the Japanese restaurant.
  • Tempting Fate: When Alexander tells his family about the wish, Ben says they can still turn the day into a good one; it only gets worse.
  • This Ain't Rocket Surgery: When Ben assumes he failed his job interview, Kelly points out that he's a smart man, an actual rocket scientist, in fact.
  • Tyop on the Cover: In-universe example: The book Kelly is launching is supposed to be called Jump on the Potty. Instead, the title reads Dump on the Potty.
  • Unlucky Everydude: Alexander considers himself an "expert on bad days".


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