Miguel Arteta’s loose adaptation of the Judith Viorst book is palatable enough, even if it does rapidly descend into little more than a collection of just-about-related vignettes. Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner are the parents dragged through a veritable day from hell as things start off badly for a family of suburbanites and get worse from there. Botched job interviews, opening-night flu and a rude Dick Van Dyke all conspire to mess up what stands to be the most important, and dramatic, day for the cookie-cutter family. The result is a modest diversion with a decent hit-rate of quick-ish fire gags; amusing enough for those cinema-goers looking forward to a half term break, but unremarkable for those footing the bill.
Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) is the perpetually geeky, overlooked middle child who goes through his own terrible day on the eve of his 12th birthday. He gets bubble gum in his hair, he almost burns his school down and the debonair, popular kid in class sabotages his birthday party by announcing his own, more impressive do.
Annoyed at the general lack of sympathy being offered by a family too wrapped up in their own problems, he makes a birthday wish that they should understand his pain by experiencing their own traumas; hence the terrible, horrible, absolutely bloody awful worst day ever duly begins to unfold.
Carell is predictably amusing as he proceeds make a mess of his job interview and Alexander’s siblings (Dylan Minnette & Kerris Dorsey) add to the pandemonium with just enough gusto as their prom night dates and school musical shows begin to circle the drain.
Screenwriter, Rob Lieber has made a decent fist of expanding some pretty slight source material into 90 minutes of comedy, but there’s a general lack of narrative focus on show here and a sense of the scattershot. Of course, it’s likely to hold the attention of some of the most demanding of eight year-olds for just long enough before it disappears under the rising tide of final act schmaltz.
Genre:Family, Comedy Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures Release Date: 24th October 2014 (UK) Rating: PG Director: Miguel Arteta Cast: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould