Peppermint movie review

PEPPERMINT

Director : Pierre Morel
Cast : Jennifer Garner, John Gallagher Jr., John Ortiz, Richard Cabral, Annie Ilonzeh, Jeff Hephner, Cailey Fleming
Genre : Action/Drama/Thriller
Run Time : 102 mins
Opens : 6 September 2018
Rating : NC16

In the regrettable Daredevil and the even more regrettable spin-off Elektra, Jennifer Garner played an assassin with vengeance on the mind. Is this action thriller, Garner is once again out to give those who have wronged her what’s coming to them, as kind of a gender-flipped Punisher.

Garner plays Riley North, a banker who lives in suburban L.A. with her husband Chris (Jeff Hephner) and young daughter Carly (Cailey Fleming). Riley’s life is brutally upended when her husband and daughter are murdered in a drive-by shooting. She identifies the shooters as drug cartel members, but the cartel has paid off officials in the courts and law enforcement; those responsible walk free. Riley is enraged, and sets about remaking herself into a one-woman army, hunting down and killing those who murdered her family and those who helped them get away with it. With LAPD officers Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr.) and Moises (John Ortiz) and FBI Agent Inman (Annie Ilonzeh) hot on her trail, Riley must evade the long arm of the law as she deals out her own fiery brand of justice.

Peppermint follows in a long line of revenge thrillers, and shares much in common with Death Wish, often thought of as the codifier of the subgenre. The poor reception garnered by the Bruce Willis-starring Death Wish remake earlier this year showed that as straightforward as movies like this might seem on paper, it takes finesse and savvy to execute them well. Peppermint wants to be a hard-boiled revenge movie like those Hollywood made in the 70s, but times have changed, and movies like this are expected to be more sophisticated in their handling of the themes. The Jodie Foster starrer The Brave One, also about a woman who survives a traumatic event and becomes a vigilante, attempted this but left a lot to be desired in its take on the morality of vigilante justice.

In most vigilante thrillers, we’re meant to root for the protagonist as they take matters into their own hands. To get us there, Peppermint employs emotionally manipulative tactics. The protagonist’s husband and daughter, leaving a carnival with peppermint ice cream in her hand, are gunned down in painful slow-motion, and all the family bonding scenes they share preceding that fateful moment are just set up for the death. We’re supposed to cheer Riley on as she blazes her path of vengeance, even as she acts sadistically. It’s too unpleasant to be much fun, and it seems like it wasn’t meant to be fun at all.

There’s a version of Peppermint that could have been an all-out bloody exploitation movie, enjoyable on a trashy level. Instead, director Pierre Morel, who also helmed Taken, seems intent on making it work on a dramatic level, which he struggles with. As such, while the action in Peppermint is sometimes intense, the movie is altogether grave and joyless, taking itself far too seriously. In both its premise and execution, Peppermint seems to be a movie that wants to be treated like a serious drama, instead of violent entertainment.

Much of the film hinges on Jennifer Garner’s performance, and it is nice to see her back in an action role, years after Alias, the afore-mentioned Daredevil and Elektra, and The Kingdom. Garner has mostly been in family movies as of late, so there’s a degree of satisfaction in seeing her go the full Sarah Connor. We’ve got to buy Riley as someone who transforms from regular career woman and mum to a hardened badass, and Garner puts effort into making that metamorphosis convincing. However, the movie still demands plenty of suspension of disbelief, and Garner’s central performance, strong as it is, is not enough to hold the whole thing together.

The other characters fall neatly into boxes: cop, gang member, husband, daughter, et. al. The movie isn’t too interested in fleshing anyone out, and while the villains of the film are shown committing despicable acts, they’re too nondescript to be compellingly threatening. Ortiz overacts a little as the harried cop, while John Gallagher Jr.’s performance as the cop who’s sympathetic to Riley is at least a little interesting.

Peppermint is an uncomplicated movie about a complicated topic. It wants to give the appearance of considering the implications of what it depicts but doesn’t really. Perhaps the current political climate in the U.S. mirrors that of the 70s to a certain degree, resulting in resentment of the status quo and frustration at the injustices that are a by-product of corruption and complacency. However, if we’re supposed to take a vigilante thriller seriously and really consider the questions it raises, it’s got to be more nuanced and less heavy-handed than Peppermint.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Love, Simon review

For inSing

LOVE, SIMON

Director : Greg Berlanti
Cast : Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg, Miles Heizer, Keiynan Lonsdale, Logan Miller, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Tony Hale
Genre : Comedy, Drama
Run Time : 1h 50m
Opens : 03 May 2018
Rating : R21 (Homosexual Themes)

On the surface, Love, Simon looks like your typical high school romance, a light-hearted throwback to John Hughes movies and other defining coming-of-age films from the 80s. However, the protagonist Simon Spiers (Nick Robinson) has a secret: he’s gay.

Simon is hesitant to come out, even though he has a supporting family comprising dad Jack (Josh Duhamel), mum Emily (Jennifer Garner) and sister Nora (Talitha Bateman). Simon also has close friends in school, including Leah (Katherine Langford), Nick (Jorge Ledenborg Jr.) and new student Abby (Alexandra Shipp).

Simon sees an anonymous post from a schoolmate online, in which the writer, whom he only knows as “Blue”, says that he’s gay but hasn’t come out yet. Simon begins a correspondence with Blue and finds himself falling for the mystery schoolmate. Simon finds himself in jeopardy when a would-be blackmailer discovers the emails and threatens to announce Simon’s secret to the whole school. Simon’s friendships are thrown into disarray as Simon figures out who he truly is, while trying to ascertain the identity of his mystery suitor.

Love, Simon is based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. The film is directed by Greg Berlanti, the writer-producer behind Dawson’s Creek, Riverdale and the DCTV series including Arrow and The Flash.

This is a sweet, warm-hearted film that’s honest and often funny. Like many high school movies, it comes across as heightened and there are moments when Love, Simon is too convoluted for its own good. It’s not particularly in-depth in its exploration of coming out as gay and the mental toll that keeping a secret like that can take on a teenager, but it’s the closest thing to a mainstream gay rom-com we’ve seen.

Here in Singapore, films are almost automatically slapped with an R21 rating if LGBT characters and issues figure heavily into the plot. In the U.S., Love, Simon is rated PG-13. There still are large sections of moviegoers here who might be apprehensive about watching a film with a gay main character. Love, Simon seems almost as if it was made with those audiences in mind. It’s gentle and accessible, and the relationships are easy to relate to if a little over-the-top.

Nick Robinson feels like the right choice to play Simon. Robinson is a little sullen and isn’t really bursting with charm, but that fits a character who’s unsure of himself and is trying to lay low. The dynamics within the friend group are fun, and these are characters who are a delight to spend time with.

Katherine Langford of 13 Reasons Why fame is sweet and amiable as Leah, while Alexandra Shipp is bubbly and radiant as Abby. Logan Miller’s Martin Addison, the nominal antagonist of the movie, is more layered a character than he first appears. Sure, he’s annoying, but there are elements of him that are relatable too.

Clark Moore is a scene-stealer as Ethan, the only openly gay student at the school. Simon feels a little jealous at how comfortable Clark is in his own skin, and it seems a bit of a shame that the two characters do not interact more.

Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner play the stock parent characters who thread the line between embarrassing and cool. Gay characters in films are often portrayed as coming from fractured families or having endured abuse, so it is nice to see Simon’s family being so loving towards him.

Any high school movie must have authority figures, and Tony Hale displays wonderful comic timing as the awkward vice-principal Mr. Worth, who tries desperately to relate to his students but it hopeless at it. Natasha Rothwell’s Ms. Albright is this reviewer’s favourite character – she’s the exasperated, sarcastic drama teacher trying to wrangle less-than-talented students who are performing a production of the musical Cabaret.

The film emphasises how there is nothing wrong with Simon at all, and hopefully the film’s non-threatening presentation will help audiences who might be uncomfortable with LGBT subject matter gradually learn to see things from other points of view.

There have been many gay-themed coming-of-age films, including Mysterious Skin, Moonlight and Call Me by Your Name. However, these are often arthouse movies that might alienate casual viewers and tend to be deliberately uncomfortable. Love, Simon’s winning mass appeal makes it an important film, even if it abides by many teen romance tropes.

There’s an earnestness and likeability that make Love, Simon more than your average high school movie. It’s a movie about love and acceptance that is entertaining rather than overtly preachy. Regardless of sexual orientation, most audiences will find at least some elements of the film easily relatable.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Nine Lives

For F*** Magazine

NINE LIVES

Director : Barry Sonnenfeld
Cast : Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Malina Weissman, Robbie Amell, Christopher Walken, Mark Consuelos, Cheryl Hines
Genre : Comedy
Run Time : 1 hr 27 mins
Opens : 5 August 2016
Rating : PG

Nine Lives posterTo paraphrase Brad Pitt’s David Mills in Se7en, “aww, what’s in the litterbox?” Kevin Spacey is forced to embrace his feline side in this family comedy. Spacey plays Tom Brand, the owner of the multi-billion-dollar corporation Firebrand. The company is on the verge of unveiling its new headquarters in New York, set to be the tallest skyscraper in the Northern Hemisphere. Preoccupied with beating a competing high-rise being constructed in Chicago, Tom neglects his wife Lara (Garner) and young daughter Rebecca (Weissman). He also refuses to give David (Amell), his son from his first marriage who is also a Firebrand employee, the time of day. Rebecca wants a cat for her birthday, so Tom begrudgingly heads to a pet store to get her one. Felix Grant (Walken), the proprietor of a pet store named ‘Purrkins’, sells Tom a Norwegian Forest cat dubbed ‘Mr. Fuzzypants’. After an accident leaves Tom in a coma, his spirit is transferred into Mr. Fuzzypants. The cat has to convince Lara and Rebecca that he actually is Tom, while Firebrand exec Ian (Consuelos) threatens to take over the company.

Nine Lives Malina Weissman, Kevin Spacey and Christopher Walken

There’s something fishy going on here, and it’s quite possible that the story behind the making of Nine Lives is a fascinating showbiz farce involving lost bets and blackmail. We can’t prove this, of course, so we would like the EuropaCorp lawyers to hold off. Yes, this comes from Luc Besson’s production company, stars Kevin Spacey and is directed by Barry Sonnenfeld of Men in Black fame. It’s a weird set of people to be collaborating on a family movie which would be right at home on the Disney Channel. And it’s so obvious we shouldn’t need to point it out, but yes, this is a wholesale rip-off of Disney’s own The Shaggy Dog – a rip-off that required a staggering five screenwriters to assemble. Even weirder, Sonnenfeld has a self-professed dislike for cats and is allergic to them. “Dogs can be trained, but dogs work for love and food,” he said in an interview “Cats don’t care about love and really don’t care that much about food, either.” This total lack of a desire to be there does show in the work.

Nine Lives Malina Weissman

“I’ve got a wife, an ex-wife and two kids. I don’t need another thing to feed,” Tom scoffs early on in the movie. It’s a cliché through and through – the ambitious businessman consumed by his job, placing no value on human connections, who has to be taught a lesson by way of some magical realism. It’s never exactly explained what products or services Firebrand offers, though Tom’s face on the cover of Wired magazine implies it’s some sort of tech juggernaut. It’s hard to imagine that Spacey is aching for cash, what with insiders speculating that his per-episode salary on House of Cards is $1 million. Still, he isn’t exactly phoning it in, and for the bulk of the movie he’s performing Mr. Fuzzypant’s inner monologue (so no CGI mouths grafted onto actual cats). The deadpan delivery makes the lines a fair bit funnier than they have any right to be. And it’s not like it’s possible for a performer like Spacey to make material like this worse. Norwegian Forest cats Jean, Philmon, Connery, Roxy and Yuri are credited as playing Mr. Fuzzypants – they may not be Oscar winners like Spacey is, but credit where credit is due.

Nine Lives Jennifer Garner and Malina Weissman

Garner’s recent filmography features a significant proportion of safe family comedies, and there’s not too much to say about her performance here. Weissman, whom some might recognise as young Kara on Supergirl, is sufficiently likeable as a daughter yearning for her father’s care and attention. Cheryl Hines is reasonably funny as Tom’s catty ex-wife, and the hunky Amell is believably earnest as a son seeking his father’s approval. Walken is basically reprising his role from Click as the mystical store-owner who gives our protagonist a dose of self-reflection. Walken is a reliable ‘one scene wonder’, but his scene-stealing prowess is not on display here.

Nine Lives Robbie Amell

If you’re a cat-lover, there are plenty of adorable shenanigans performed by both animal actors and computer-generated felines to take in. However, a stiltedness and insincerity permeates Nine Lives. There really aren’t too many wildly inappropriate jokes beyond the standard “cats peeing/getting neutered” chestnuts, but one has to question the decision of having a company’s Initial Public Offering be a crucial plot point in a family film. The movie’s climax also takes an unexpectedly dark turn. The visual effects work is conspicuous, but not laughably terrible. On the level of a “so bad it’s good” curiosity, Nine Lives is fodder for a drunken movie night with friends and there’s a degree of enjoyment in seeing Spacey muse about urinating in a handbag. That said, it’s hard to recommend spending even one dollar on Nine Lives.

Summary: Director Barry Sonnenfeld coughs up quite the cinematic hairball. We’re still very curious about what made Kevin Spacey say yes to this one.

RATING: 1.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Miracles From Heaven

For F*** Magazine

MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN

Director : Patricia Riggen
Cast : Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, Martin Henderson, Eugenio Derbez, Queen Latifah, Brighton Sharbino, Courtney Fansler, John Carroll Lynch
Genre : Drama
Run Time : 109 mins
Opens : 21 April 2016
Rating : PG
Watching a child suffer through a chronic illness is torturous for any parent, and Christy Beam (Garner) knows what the process is like. Christy and her husband Kevin are the parents of three daughters: Abbie (Sharbino), Anna (Rogers) and Adelynn (Fansler). Anna begins having severe stomach pains and doctors are initially unable to diagnose her, causing Christy and Kevin much anguish. Eventually, it is discovered that Anna suffers from an incurable stomach condition known as pseudo-obstruction motility disorder, leaving the 12-year-old girl unable to digest food. Christy and Anna fly out to Boston to seek the help of Dr. Samuel Nurko, a renowned paediatric gastroenterologist. As the expensive treatment and flights out to Boston begin to empty out the family’s bank account, Christy finds her faith wearing thin, and is also troubled by some congregation members in her church who blame Anna’s illness on sin in the lives of Christy and her family. She finds herself asking the age-old question: “where is God in times of crisis?”

            Miracles From Heaven is based on the real-life Christy Beam’s memoirs of the same name, subtitled “A Little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven, and Her Amazing Story of Healing”. It’s no secret that the story has a happy ending, with Anna coming back from a near-death experience in which she meets with God, with her illness completely cured. This is exactly what it says on the tin, packed with inspirational uplift and aimed squarely at evangelical Christians. Director Riggen’s previous film was The 33, based on the true story of the trapped Chilean miners. That film was overly schmaltzy and cheesy, as is Miracles From Heaven. Lest we sound like crusty-hearted monsters, it is affecting whenever one sees a child in discomfort, let alone suffering from as painful an illness as the one that afflicts Anna. However, the treacly gloss, clunky dialogue and multiple moments of unintentional hilarity severely undercut the emotional heft of the story.

            The main production company involved in making Miracles From Heaven is Affirm Films, an imprint of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions. Now, we’re aware that what we’re about to say will sound very cynical indeed, and yes, most if not all movies are made with the hope that they will turn a profit. However, it’s impossible to ignore that the main reason Miracles From Heaven got made is that faith-based films made on a small budget have become box offices successes in the U.S., with recent examples God’s Not Dead and War Room outpacing more costly films in sales. 2014’s Heaven is For Real, from the same producers as Miracles From Heaven, also turned a significant profit, making $101.3 million on a $12 million budget. Once the commercial impetus becomes clear, one can’t help but find the movie at least a little insincere.

            Garner lends the movie some star power and puts in a competent, if not spectacularly powerful performance as the steadfast, loving mother who puts it all on the line for her daughter’s well-being. The Texas twang comes and goes, but Garner is investing enough of her energy in the part that the performance works. The three daughters do come off as precocious Disney Channel moppets, with the oldest having the sole defining trait of being a soccer player. Rogers is reasonably convincing as a kid in quite the state of misery, and scenes of her in treatment are difficult to watch. Dependable character actor Lynch is fine as the stock cheery pastor, who incorporates prop comedy into his sermons. Derbez goes all Patch Adams as Dr. Nurko – it’s cringe-worthy, but as a performer he does have a warmth and likeability to him. Latifah makes a brief appearance as a kindly Boston waitress who befriends Christy and Anna. It doesn’t make much difference to the story, but it’s worth noting that the real woman on whom Latifah’s character was based is white.

            Leaving aside how difficult it is to get invested in a story knowing exactly how it ends, Miracles From Heaven contains nothing of substance that would make a sceptic even briefly consider turning towards faith. Riggen zeroes in on the tear ducts at every given opportunity, and the undercurrent of unsubtle emotional manipulation means the remarkable true story is never given a chance to speak for itself.

Summary: Heavy-handed and often unintentionally funny, Miracles From Heaven sees a solid turn from Jennifer Garner and some genuinely affecting moments get lost in the predictable, pandering shuffle.

RATING: 2out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Danny Collins

For F*** Magazine

DANNY COLLINS

Director : Dan Fogelman
Cast : Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Bobby Cannavale, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Plummer, Katarina Čas
Genre : Drama/Comedy
Run Time : 107 mins
Opens : 23 April 2015
Rating : NC16 (Some Drug Use and Nudity)

“Rock and roll dreams come through” – so sang Meat Loaf all those years ago. What comes after that? Danny Collins (Pacino) is an aging rock star, a fading shadow of his former self. With a trophy fiancé (Čas) on his arm, a touring show mostly attended by senior citizens and a third Greatest Hits album on the way, Danny is feeling unfulfilled. Danny’s manager Frank Grubman (Plummer) gives him a life-changing birthday present – a handwritten letter from John Lennon that Danny was meant to receive 40 years ago. This gives Danny a second wind as he cancels his tour, checks into a hotel near a New Jersey suburb and tries writing music again. Danny tries to mend bridges with his adult son Tom (Cannavale), attempting to win over Tom’s wife (Samantha) and young daughter Hope (Giselle Eisenberg) and do right by the family he’s only now getting to know. In the meantime, he strikes up a possible romance with Mary Sinclair (Bening), the manager at the hotel.
            The film beings with the text “the following is kind of based on a true story a little bit”, a winking, honest admission. The true story in question is that of Steve Tilston, a folk singer from Bristol who discovered that after reading an interview Tilston did with a music magazine, John Lennon had written him a letter that Tilston only received 34 years after the fact. Writer-director Dan Fogelman takes that starting point and spins into a rock star redemption story, its protagonist part-Rod Stewart, part-Tom Jones, with a dash of Barry Manilow for good measure. With its message of “staying true to yourself”, Danny Collins is mostly predictable and it’s clear that Fogelman is valiantly straining to temper the sentimentality with some edginess in the form of swearing, drugs and nudity. The material is still mawkish, most noticeably when Danny bonds with his granddaughter, a stock hyperactive, precocious moppet. At times, the film reminded this reviewer of the Hannah Montana movie, of all things. Annette Bening’s Mary keeps encouraging Danny to write that one song that means something to him, just as Travis did with Miley, the result in that film being “The Climb”.  

            Al Pacino isn’t an actor one would expect to deliver a nuanced performance – this is Mr. “HOO-AH!” we’re talking about, after all. As a rock star desperately trying to recapture his glory days, Pacino does get to be a little flamboyant but thankfully reins it in for the most part. Danny’s pre-show ritual consists of snorting cocaine, downing whiskey and dabbing his face with self-tanner. The casting seems apt, since Pacino himself is past his prime, and it’s actually okay that his singing voice is terrible, since it adds to the washed-up quotient. He probably is miscast, but Pacino makes the most of it. It’s not quite a glorious comeback for the actor, but it’s definitely better than slumming it in something like Jack and Jill.

            Pacino is backed up by an accomplished supporting cast. Annette Bening channels Diane Keaton adequately, it’s the stock type of the no-nonsense boss lady set on resisting the charms of our protagonist but Bening is nonetheless endearing and strikes up good chemistry with Pacino. Bobby Cannavale and Jennifer Garner make for a convincing upper-middle class couple at the end of their rope and trying not to let it show for the sake of their kids. The conflict between father and son, however fierce, still lacks bite because we know how it’ll all end up. It is Christopher Plummer who steals the show as Danny’s blunt, level-headed and reliable manager/best friend. Plummer has gone on record saying that though it’s the thing everyone remembers him from, The Sound of Music was too saccharine for his tastes. If you’ve ever wanted to hear Captain Von Trapp drop more than a few F-bombs and utter the words “sore-tittied African ladies”, this is the movie for you.  
  
          The biggest coup here is that Fogelman was able to secure Yoko Ono’s permission to insert nine John Lennon songs into the film’s soundtrack, a rarity in the music licensing world. Unfortunately, the use of some of these tracks is heavy handed – “Beautiful Boy” plays just after Danny first meets his son, because of course. The theme of artistic integrity vs. commercial appeal was addressed with more panache in Birdman – come to think of it, the handwritten letter from John Lennon here could be compared to the handwritten note from Raymond Carver in that movie. Still, it counts for something that Fogelman demonstrates an awareness that jaded audience members are not that easy to win over, instead of diving head-first into the schmaltz.


Summary: Acknowledging his status as a washed-up star, Al Pacino is on fine form here and is backed up by a great supporting cast, but the rock star redemption story is still too formulaic to soar.
RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars
Jedd Jong

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

For F*** Magazine

ALEXANDER AND THE HORRIBLE, TERRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY

Director : Miguel Arteta
Cast : Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Ed Oxenbould, Kerris Dorsey, Megan Mullally, Jennifer Coolidge, Bella Thorne
Genre : Family/Comedy
Run Time : 81 mins
Opens : 4 December 2014
Rating : PG
Daniel Powter sang about a “Bad Day” in 2005 and in this Disney comedy, we meet someone who’s had his share of bad days, 11-year-old Alexander Cooper (Oxenbould). It’s the day before his 12th birthday and Alexander’s crushed that all his friends will be attending another schoolmate’s party instead. None of his family members will give him the time of day because they’re too caught up celebrating all the things that are going right for them. A dejected Alexander fixes himself a makeshift birthday sundae, wishing that the rest of his family will experience a downer day of their own. The next day, Alexander’s wish comes true: his dad Ben’s (Carell) job interview takes a less-than-successful turn, the children’s book his mum Kelly (Garner) is publishing emerges with an unfortunate typo, his sister Emily (Dorsey) might have to sit out the production of Peter Pan in which she’s starring due to the flu his older brother Anthony (Minnette) has a disastrous driving test and a falling out with his girlfriend Celia (Thorne) and his baby brother Trevor (Elise/Zoey Vargas) ingests a permanent marker. Alexander realises what his wish has wrought and the family band together to make it through the day together.

            This writer is grateful that Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day has as long a title as it does because it will help with his word quota. The film is based on the 1972 children’s book by Judith Viorst, which was earlier adapted into an animated musical special. Being a 32-page children’s book, the film calls for adaptation expansion. So, while the book focused on Alexander’s own bad day, the bulk of the film centres on the bad day Alexander wishes upon the rest of his family. It’s basically Hijinks Ensues: The Movie, with Murphy’s Law in full effect. There’s a degree of schadenfreude to be had in seeing myriad family-friendly calamities befall the Cooper clan. This is best-described as a sitcom episode with a larger budget. It’s really, really silly but you knew that going into it already. Between the least successful stage production of Peter Pansince the one in 21 Jump Street, Steve Carell pursuing a runaway kangaroo through the neighbourhood and strippers showing up for a kids’ birthday party, the comedy set-pieces are lively but stop short of being satisfyingly elaborate.

            Parents make many sacrifices for their children and sitting through cringe-worthy family movies is one of them. Thankfully, Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day isn’t as torturous for the older members of the audience as it could’ve been and it helps that it clocks in at a breezy 81 minutes. Steve Carell’s presence elevates the pratfall-heavy flick – no matter what he’s in, he never looks like he’s phoning it in or that the material is beneath him and he’s been subjected to far more embarrassment in earlier films like Evan Almighty. He’s game for anything director Miguel Arteta throws at him, including being lit on fire at a Benihana-style teppanyaki restaurant. Jennifer Garner’s good in this one too, making for a believable pillar of sanity for the family. The attitudes that both Ben and Kelly Cooper carry are actually quite uplifting and it does bring a smile to one’s face to see this couple try their darndest to remain positive as everything unravels around them in comedic fashion.

            The child actors in the film are competent if not particularly remarkable. Ed Oxenbould has just enough of that “loveable moppet” quality about him without looking like he was assembled in a Disney child star factory. It’s also pretty funny that Alexander is fascinated by all things Australian, and Oxenbould is an Aussie himself. Kerris Dorsey is appealingly loopy as she attempts to play Peter Pan while high on cough syrup. Dylan Minnette is a little stiff as the older brother eager to impress his date and Bella Thorne does bring just enough “mean girl”-ness to bear. Dick van Dyke is a bit of an odd cameo choice – we suppose there’s the Disney connection. Genre fans will also get a kick out of seeing Burn Gorman from Pacific Rim, Torchwood and Game of Thrones show up as the drama teacher.


            Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day has its share of bodily function jokes and other juvenile gags but it’s able to escape that feeling that it should be consigned to the Disney Channel thanks to the two A-list stars playing the parents. The production values are also decent, barring an iffy CGI kangaroo. If you’re at the Cineplex and have got little ‘uns in tow, you could do worse than this bad day.
Summary: It’s a really silly, fluffy family flick, but the gags fly thick and fast, Steve Carell throws himself into the nonsense and it’s all over fairly quickly.
RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars
Jedd Jong