This was my 9 year old son’s review anyway, and I was relieved to be in agreement with him.
There had been huge excitement in our house leading up to the opening of this film. We were model consumers: trailers were watched in advance, the internet scoured for clips and quotes and every poster caused a squeal. Suffice to say, being a Steve Carell fan myself, when the great day arrived even I was looking forward to seeing it.
For those not in the know, the story revolves around an 11 year old boy named Alexander who is struggling with life. In contrast, the rest of his family all seem to be gliding along. So, on the eve of his twelfth birthday, Alexander wishes on them a terrible day just so they might understand how he feels.
Sure enough, each family member does encounter disaster the following day but, of course, everything works out in the end. Which was a total bummer, and I’m not kidding.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against happy endings and I’m sure the movie will do very well. It was just the substance of Alexander’s happy ending which made me leave the theater feeling a little defeated.
Why? What had happened? In the last scene, Alexander has a party for the ages. Not only does his dad get a great job, his mom does not lose hers and his siblings sort out their problems. On top of all this, his parents hire an Australian petting zoo for the party, there are Australian cowboys to do amazing gymnastics and, because his rival got the measles, all his classmates show up and think Alexander is cool after all. Ta Da! Woohooo!!
Quite apart from anything else, the dad’s been out of work for seven months and manages to come up with a party like that? I couldn’t help feeling sorry for all the other parents around me watching this movie with their kids too. Were they feeling like me? On the way home, what could I tell my kids about their own lives in comparison?
You see, life has already shown my two (as it did me at a young age) that everything doesn’t always turn out even better than we hoped. That hard things do happen. On the plus side however, life has also shown them that being around those you love and who love you just for being you on your birthday – amidst all of life’s crazy ups and downs – is the best reason to celebrate there is. That is the thing that’s truly cool.
It was such a great idea for a movie but so suckily played out. I do wish the story had stuck with the basic party planned by Alexander’s parents involving pizza and volleyball in the backyard with a few real pals – and they had had a great time nonetheless.
I wish we had left the family not in a crazy glow of awesome “stuff”, but exhausted and happy to be safe, enjoying their dad’s lopsided cake and someone getting pushed in the pool. I wish the film had left some things unresolved, and some things not working out while others did. I wish Alexander had come to understand how friendship is more important than popularity and that parents succeed and fail and life goes on. That his parents love him with all their hearts whether their bank balance can allow for a trendy party or not. And that even though everything doesn’t turn out OK in the end, everyone is still all right.
I wish it had been that movie. Then it would have been a classic to watch and watch and watch again: an ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ for kids that all kids can aspire to. That would have been a Very Good Movie, and a storyline the three of us could have laughed about in sympathy all the way home.
Or is it just me?