Hard luck and trouble. That's what's in store for the Cooper family when 12-year-old Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) unwittingly curses his clan.
His misspent wish translates into a lot of messy slippage and spillage in the slapstick comedy of catastrophes, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. (It took only 44 years to bring Judith Viorst's children's book to the screen.)
It's a film in which Dad (Steve Carell) spends most of his time in a frilly shirt straight out of Seinfeld; Mom (Jennifer Garner), to her great chagrin, humiliates the original DVD (Dick Van Dyke); and Alexander's two older sibs (Dylan Minnette and Kerris Dorsey) suffer in the way only teenagers can.
It's a film where you start chuckling as soon as someone says something like, "I just want everything to be perfect tonight."
In other words, AATTHNGVBD is a sweet, if predictable, kids' comedy. But you have to overlook the conveniently inconsistent behavior of all the characters - except in Garner's case. She never establishes a character.
In the efficient hands of TV director Miguel Arteta, the high jinks build to a satisfying and hectic pace. But everything peaks too early, and the film melts into a gooey, sentimental residue.
Oxenbould gives an endearing performance, with a slight lisp and a face that looks like an adolescent Dax Shepard. But no one else involved will want to put this on their resumé. And not just because the title takes up way too much room.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (out of four stars)
Directed by Miguel Arteta. With Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould. Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 21 mins.
Parent's guide: PG (language, acts of recklessness).
Playing at: area theaters.