It’s the evening before Alexander’s (Ed Oxenbould) birthday, and having experienced a whirlwind of vexing unpleasantness, where everything that could go wrong most certainly did go wrong – he wishes that, just for one day, his seemingly perfect family would suffer the same fate. The following day it seems his wish has come true, though the timing could not be worse – as his father (Steve Carell) readies himself for an important job interview, while his mother (Jennifer Garner) could soon be hunting for jobs herself when a big day at work takes a turn for the worse. Meanwhile, siblings Emily (Kerris Dorsey) and Anthony (Dylan Minnette) too have to go through the motions, on the day of their big drama performance and school prom, respectively.
The comedy-disaster movie has grown somewhat tired of late, with a variety of productions such as The Sitter, 30 Minutes or Less (or anything Harold and Kumar appear in) all feeling tremendously akin to one another, remaining frustratingly conventional to the tropes of the genre. However as they are all aimed at an adult crowd, in order to shock the viewers we see our protagonists get caught up in criminal investigations, drug deals or find themselves on the run from a vicious gang. But for Alexander, as a picture aimed at all the family, it takes a far more wholesome approach, and as such, is far more relatable. Arteta plays heavily on real life irritations, like being late for work, babysitting your children, or going for a job interview, etc.
Alexander remains an entertaining entry point into this tale too, and Oxenbould turns in a brilliantly sardonic performance, with cynical looks to camera, as he represents the viewer, able to view the fantastical world around him with a shrewd, somewhat barbed take, normalising the madness that ensues for our benefit. He is helped along enormously by the likes of Carell and Garner too, who in turn are so earnest and sincere in their conviction, with Arteta – renowned for the likes of Youth in Revolt and The Good Girl – using his own experience in comedies to great effect.
This production is simply good fun. It’s amusing in parts, and warm and tender in others, with a well-judged take on the more intimate, family aspects. It therefore comes as something of a surprise that Alexander and the very long, pretentious, annoying, ridiculous film title, actually makes for a very short, sweet and genial piece of cinema.