The Messed Up Title That is Too Long to Type So Stop it Already

The stress of merely watching Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is enormous, let alone living its kooky, childish exaggeration of rough days. Otherwise, it’s cleverly titled, age-appropriate entertainment with a narrative gentle streak.

Very Bad Day is a middle child film, where Alexander, caught between teens and a baby brother, feels neglected. He’s lost in the relentless day-to-day shuffle of family life. Parents? They have job issues. The prom-bound teenage brother has a zit. His acting superstar sister has a cold.

Alexander wished it on all of them. Oops.

Alexander is a bright kid, obsessed with obvious Australian things – koalas, kangaroos – and is setting up for his 12th  birthday party. Cue the one day antics, all surrounding Alexander until the predicable finish.

As with a plethora of these kid’s book-to-movie conversions, Very Bad Day is necessarily thicker than it is in print.

The film only has a breathless 70 minutes to do anything. Judith Viorst’s book only had 32 pages, so this adaptation still needed fattening. As with a plethora of these kid’s book-to-movie conversions, Very Bad Day is necessarily thicker than it is in print. The additions here are a bonus and the simple scenarios lose little of their zip. The Lorax could have learned plenty from this style. Scripting is soft and the execution pleasant, building a rather typical family scenario, albeit one rife with gleaming positivity. If only more homes could be so intact as a unit.

Very Bad Day is at times mindless, but so short as to alleviate any possible fatigue. Scenes devolve into splendid chaos safe for family consumption and lively enough for kids even if they become sucked into their phones. It’s often loud enough to be a vibrant distraction from technology’s grip.

It’s simple. Too simple, probably. But this exertion of screen energy is not for naught. Very Bad Day is cleverly constructed, pieced together tightly and is considerate of a busy household’s time, if sidestepping a chance at longevity. A few younger ones may be sucked into the film on repeat, while the rest will move on – albeit happily. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]

Not such a bad day @ 1:08:00

Let’s talk transfer issues, a special rarity not only for new releases, but certainly Disney. At 11-ish minutes in and lasting for around 10, it would appear an entirely different encode slipped onto this disc. What was once pristine, digital cinematography breaks down into DVD-level resolution, weird spotty compression (?) problems, and alarmingly bad edge enhancement. In comparison to the rest of the presentation – all loaded with fidelity and vivid clarity – the switch is striking.

And then, it’s gone. Very Bad Day changes from being a Very Bad Disc to a Very Fine Disc. It’s utterly bizarre. In ten years or more of doing home media critiques, it is the only time something like this has happened.

As for everything else, there’s nothing to be worked up about. Color is pleasingly saturated with nicely rendered primaries. Flesh tones are gorgeous. The slightly elevated if almost entirely natural palette never veers toward anything other than brightness.

Contrast is peppy and sharpness is on point. It is what it is: A live action, digitally captured kids film. If it has no problems, there would be a struggle to find words. Consider Very Bad Day to be an indifferent beauty, aside from 10-minutes or so. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

Chaos in a house with four kids is well composed sonically, with the stage spreading into stereos as kids move around the house yelling. It’s constant.

Only one key action scene is worthy of dissecting, a car accident involving trees and parking meters. Surrounds and rears engage to their fullest, lending the needed sense of panic. Much of the disc is ambiance, especially down school hallways or at the party which makes up the finale.

Also, like the video, a spot around 47-minutes in has a small blunder where obvious in-studio ADR has replaced live dialog. The echo is unmistakable. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

Alexander in Real Life kicks us off in extras, a brief five minute featurette chatting with author Judith Viorst about her work. Snappy Crocs and Punchy Roos tells how the party sequence was completed with all of the animal guests. You’ll be here for seven minutes. Following that up is a video diary from young star Ed Oxenbould (6:15), a short three minute blooper reel, and a music video. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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