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is-alexander-and-the-very-bad-day-worth-watchingUnsafe parenting. Reckless driving. A stoned teenager. No, it’s not the long awaited sequel to Larry Clark’s “Kids,” it’s the latest family fare from Disney.

Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) is having a bad day. It’s the eve of his twelfth birthday and nothing is going right. He got gum stuck in his hair, he almost burns down the science lab at school and worst of all, no one is going to come to his birthday party because Phillip Parker, “a really cool kid with a hot tub and ADHD,” has scheduled a wild bash for the same night.

Things are going well for the rest of the family. Teen brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette) is taking the “hottest girl in school” to the prom and is about to get his driver’s license. Sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) is about to star in a school production of “Peter Pan,” mom (Jennifer Garner) is due for a promotion and dad (Steve Carell) has a promising job interview.

Feeling down, Alexander makes a birthday wish. He wants everyone to know what it is like to have a “horrible, terrible, no good day.” Soon Emily gets a cold on the day of her performance, Anthony gets a zit and domestic chaos reigns.

The obvious joke to make about “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” would be to suggest that it should be retitled “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Movie.” But that would be disingenuous. It’s not terribly interesting, but it’s also not terrible, horrible, no good or very bad.

It’s gently paced family fare with a few genuine laughs and few surprises. Carell and Jennifer Garner are the most good-natured parents ever—when Emily vomits on dad after taking too much cough medicine he says, “Oh. I bet that felt good.”—and from that blossoms some funny situations and lines—“I’m going to need you to make an incredible effort on the potty tomorrow.”—but all are in service of the movie’s central theme that everybody has bad days.

Many of the situations don’t really feel organic. Instead they feel like set-ups to gags, outrageous filler—look Carell’s on fire!—to keep us interested until the inevitable happy ending.

Parents won’t find much to hold their attention in “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” but younger kids will likely get a kick out of the bad behavior on display. “Kids” it ain’t, although the Cooper children seem to get away with everything just short of murder.

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