Alexander takes family on 'Very Bad Day' in Disney comedy

2014-10-11

(Reuters) - A rogue crocodile, a green baby, a puking Peter Pan and a punching kangaroo are troublesome yet comedic obstacles that befall the Cooper family on a "Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" in Disney's new live-action family comedy.

"Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," out in U.S. theaters on Friday, is expanded from the 1972 book of the same name about a perpetually unlucky pre-teen boy.

After a particularly bad day at school that includes setting the science lab on fire, Alexander, played by Australian newcomer Ed Oxenbould, makes a wish on his 12th birthday that his family could experience just one very bad day.

And that's when things start going wrong for the Coopers - mom Kelly (Jennifer Garner) must try to avert a publishing disaster involving Dick Van Dyke while dad Ben (Steve Carell) tries to juggle baby duties with a job interview.

"I really thought about how relatable it all was, how it related to my life as a parent," said Carell, who has two young children. "So much of it rang true, and when things didn't ring true to us, we would speak up."

Eldest son Anthony (Dylan Minnette) destroys the family vehicle during his driving test and gets suspended before prom, while his aspiring thespian sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) gets the flu ahead of playing "Peter Pan" on stage.

As the Coopers navigate the numerous hazards thrown their way, including fire, shrimp and some hunky Australian cowboys, they find themselves bonding.

"(Alexander) realizes everyone goes through the bad days, he's not alone, and when he has this bad day with his family, he really connects with them and they really understand him," Oxenbould said.

Walt Disney Co. has most recently delivered family fare in animated, fairytale and superhero genres, with hits including "Frozen," "Maleficent" and "Guardians of the Galaxy."

"Very Bad Day," made for $28 million according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, sees the studio embracing live-action family friendly movies that it was known for making, with classics such as the "The Parent Trap" in 1961, 1976's "Freaky Friday" and 1993's "Cool Runnings." It is projected by BoxOffice.com to open with $16.5 million at the box office.

"It's so fun that Disney is making movies for whole families, live-action films, for families again," said Garner, who has three children with husband Ben Affleck.

Director Miguel Arteta said he was inspired by 1980s movies such as John Hughes's "Sixteen Candles" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and wanted to infuse some nostalgia into "Very Bad Day."

"Family movies have mostly become animated movies, and they're doing incredible work in that area, but I was excited that Disney wanted to go back to something they had done great in the sixties," Arteta said.

"This is a movie where people will have fun, laugh a lot, but they also recognize the family and feel like that family is a little bit like their family."