ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY hits theatres today and Steve Carell has high hopes for the new film saying “I hope this does set a trend and it’s one of the reasons I was interested in doing it because its hard, and I don’t want to say throwback because there’s sort of a derogatory implication there, but your right these kind of movies, live action family movies, aren’t done as often as they use to be. I was excited because it’s a new take on that genre of movie. It’s a director that’s not necessarily known for mainstream movies, again, who was kind of giving a different spin to it. So I hope it is a trend that continues, because I know my kids cant wait, and you don’t care, but they do and all of their friends care.”
The film is based on the children’s book of the same name written in 1972 which has only 37 pages in it. When screenwriter Rob Lieber was asked how he adapted the book into a full feature film he said: “That was the challenge, and when I read the book, what I think endures besides the character of Alexander, is just the feel and charm of it. So that what was I wanted to maintain. I wanted to just keep the essence of the book. Then the idea basically was, you take the first day, which is Alexander kind of having his terrible day, and then expand it and what I felt was unanswered in the book was who was this family and that was sort of the jumping off point for me. I was like, now let’s explore what would happen if the rest of this family had a terrible day and what you can learn from it, because it is one of the most universal concepts there is and I have never seen a movie about it.”
ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY is one of the first live action family comedies that the entire family can enjoy to hit theatres in years, but the film could have easily fallen apart if the family dynamic didn’t work and director Miguel Artera was well aware of that. When the group first starting working together in rehearsals everyone worked together as a team. Artera said: “We gave them a lot of freedom to change lines of the dialogue and even change some of the emotional content, adjust it, and let it evolve. My hope was to film them all falling in love with each other, you can’t always get it, it’s like going on a date you try to create the best environment possible.” With Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner leading the film and both being parents in real life, they were able to give valuable insight during the process.
JG – “Steve and I are parents, not together, but apart (laughing)”
SC – “We’re the best parents”
JG – “(laughing) We definitely know what we’re doing. We just piped up and made our thoughts known (best valley girl impression) “At my house, I totally, wouldn’t even do this”, that’s kind of how it went”
SC – “Yea, I think it was just a matter of, if anything rang false to us we would just speak up, but more often than not things felt like they would feel at our house.”
JC – “Yes! For sure, this IS basically a day at my house.”
One thing was clear while talking to the cast and crew was that while they may have been very busy working on filming a movie about family, they also very quickly became one. There were some pretty hysterical moments with Garner and Carell that you felt as if you were watching your own mom and dad tell a story, finishing each other’s sentences all while throwing each other under the bus. Like when the cast was asked if they had a terrible, horrible day while filming to which Garner replied: “There’s always a day…we had a day it was outside, really hot and we shot the same thing all day” and Steve cuts in and says in his best whining little girl voice, “Yea, we were hot, we were filming a movie, and got hot and we were sad” the room erupted in laughter, to which Jen replied, “Thank you Steve.” Steve followed up with “Right under the bus.”
It was the charm seen in the film happening right there in front of us all, the family dynamic in all its glory, getting through the tough times together and then being able to laugh at it. Ed Oxenbould even showed off some of his comedic skills when he was asked what he thought of his movie parents and if he had a favorite, his response: “My movie parents are better than my real parents.”
The tone of the film was that of the classic 80’s films we all know and look at as classics. Both the director and screenwriter were inspired by John Hughes movies, like so many of us are, so we had to ask if there were any Hughes films in particular that Arter went back to or if it was just the overall tone that he wanted to achieve. Arter said: “I loved SIXTEEN CANDLES quite a bit and also FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF. SIXTEEN CANDLES especially for the emotional weight of it, you know it’s the ultimate movie about your family forgetting your birthday and you feeling like they don’t see you at all and it has that beautiful scene with Paul Dooley where he says: “I do see you, and I totally remembered.” So that one was the one that I felt was perfectly special. I just like the warmth of those movies. I wanted this movie to be really funny and also have a little bit of that, those movies feel a little more authentic than most Hollywood movies and that was something that was important for me to find a cast that could give. Especially in the casting you can get that across, so we wanted to find kids with that as our guideline: would John Hughes kind of approve I think he might kind of approve, ok, you’re in.”
Lieber talked about the high school scenes in the story saying “Again going back to John Hughes, those were the movies that I grew up watching and so I wanted to capture that essence and when I decided to expand into bringing all the other characters of the family to life and sort of having a high school story I went back to SIXTEEN CANDLES and all the great John Hughes movies, where sort of life, is the spectacle that your dealing with and that was my inspiration.”
Casting was extremely important to making this family film work and the team worked hard at finding the perfect members of the Cooper family. They saw over 500 kids before choosing their Alexander, Ed Oxenbould, whom Artera says is “A very special kid.” The team also worked to cast two parents, four children, well five if you include the twin babies, a very interesting high school girlfriend and even a living Disney legend. There is an amazing scene where Garner gets to share the screen with Dick Van Dyke, where he may or may not be very happy with her. She was ecstatic about it, saying: “He can do whatever he wants, I mean he’s Dick Van Dyke, it was such a total thrill to just to try to conceive for my kids that I was with Chim Chim Cheree at work was so exciting. Yea it was a great, great day. The only thing that was odd was that I was there without the rest of these guys, because we were such a unit the whole time we made this movie, that I felt a little like oh I wish we were all here.” Thus proving what a complete family unit the cast became while working together. For me the best part of seeing Van Dyke appear was his history in all of those magical live action Disney films we have all grown to love. It seemed like it was his way of handing over the reigns to the next generation. Arter agreed saying: “As a comic, it is really hard to make comedy out of niceness. Most comics go to a sarcastic and dark place, that’s a lot easier and its rare. Dick Van Dyke is kind of the grandfather of this, where just out of being lovely and nice, he’s still really funny and I think that is why a lot of people really admire him. Steve Carrel is the heir of that, he can be very sweet, nice and positive and still be very funny.”
The one thing that was extremely clear was how proud the entire cast and crew was of the finished product. Garner said “I do feel so excited that we are bringing a real family movie, that we get to be part of a real family movie, that’s going out into the world. I do feel like with scenes with Bella (Thorne), Dylan (Minnette) and Kerris (Dorsey), that this is a movie that teenagers should like. I know when I got to see it, I brought my five-year old along and she loved it too. Her favorite was Steve and the kangaroo. I do feel like this is a film that families can see and I hope at the end of it, that you know, you should feel more like a family and remind you that whatever happens your all going through it together.” Carell told us “I took my son aside the other day and said, “Now are kids, do you think your classmates, really want to see this” and he said “Yea ,and apart from you being in it, they are really excited about it. That wasn’t the draw it looked like something they wanted to see.” We agree, that this is THE family movie of the year, maybe even the decade. It is most certainly the return of the live action family adventure full of heart. Make sure you and your entire family don’t miss ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY opening today in theatres everywhere.
Make sure and check back next week for a full review of the film.