Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner star as Ben and Kelly Cooper, married parents raising their family of four in the middle of suburbia. Alexander (Ed Oxenbould), the second youngest child, is tired of his parents and siblings having “good days” when all he seems to have are bad days. His oldest brother Anthony, played by Dylan Minette (Scandal, Prisoners) is “hashtag blessed” with his Junior year prom and drivers test approaching while on the same day Alexander’s sister, Emily, played by Kerris Dorsey (Ray Donovan, Moneyball) is starring as Peter Pan in her eighth grade play.
Ben, their father, has a job interview with a young upcoming video game company and Kelly is dealing with a children’s book launch at work. Everything seems to be going right for the Coopers until the night before Alexander’s birthday when he wishes his family knew what it was like to have a “bad day.”
Trouble ensues with demolished cars, cold medicine loopiness, terrible misspellings, and flaming pirate shirts.
Newcomer Ed Oxenbould, who looks almost identical to a young Philip Seymour Hoffman or Dax Shepherd, is adorable. He owns the role of the children’s book character and gives life to the script. Oxenbould is making his mark; expect to see more of him soon.
Carell and Garner make a connection as sweet and loving parents facing the troubles most parents face today. A stay at home father who lost his job due to lay offs and a mother who works so much she barely spends time with her family. The situation is one that is very recognizeable but the film doesn’t do much to explore the gravity of the situation and only scrapes the surface. Carell and Garner have better chemistry as parents to their fictional children but don’t really shine.
“You gotta have the good days to appreciate the bad days,” Alexander reminds his exhausted and upset family as they stand around trashcans. It’s a reminder the audience needs. Many people go into films to distract from their daily life and the stresses it contains, but a simple reflection like this is the point of the film. Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days happen and whether it’s one singular day or a sequence of days, they teach us patience and tolerance and empathy. We grow more to those who are beside us through those bad days and it makes us better people.
The film could easily be described as cute and heartwarming. It has its predictable moments, seeing as it follows a Disney family film formula, but the cast brings their own unique comedy and style to the screen, which makes the film enjoyable. It’s a film that is perfect for families with middle school and elementary school children.