Maybe you have lived Murphy’s Law, “If it can go wrong, it will go wrong.” Talk about pessimism. But, have one of those days where it seems like everything did go wrong and you wonder if there is such a thing as Murphy’s Curse.
How do we talk to our children, to young people, about days where everything seems to go wrong? What do we say when our children internalize the events assuming they are the cause?
Walt Disney Pictures teamed up with 21 Laps Entertainment and The Jim Henson Company to bring Judy Viorst’s 1972 children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to the big screen. The release is scheduled for October 10 – this coming Friday.
Last Saturday Patty and I accepted the invitation to an advance screening of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day at the Crossroads AMC 16 thanks to the folks, and a friend, at differentdrummer.com. Children filled the theater with a smattering of adults. I had Googled to learned about Judy Viorst’s book and became intrigued as to how a movie adaptation might work in dealing with the experience of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
We laughed. The comedy worked. We did not get caught up in The Office craze starring Steve Carell. We were not incredulous at the idea he and Jennifer Garner were married in the movie. But, casting Carell as Alexander’s Dad, Ben Cooper, worked. In fact, it seemed to be a great fit.
Ed Oxenbould, Alexander Cooper, captured the angst-ridden youngster who ran the risk of letting his bad day become the expectation rather than the exception. He did well to convey the awkwardness many a young adolescent boy feels when not the coolest or the cutest, but desperately wants to be.
Garner, Minette, and Dorsey, though important, served more caricatured roles than anything else. What I mean is that they played their respective roles of having their own bad days quite well but as to any further development of their characters, well, it was just not the point.
I return to the questions first raised at the beginning of this review. What answer do you give your child who experiences a day, or more, where it seems like everything that could go wrong does go wrong? Is it too early to talk about arbitrariness? Do you appeal to the Fates? Determinism? Caprice? Though it seems we live in a day of openness, to conversations about any and every subject, it is not hard to see how anyone, especially a young person might internalize successive experiences and conclude, “It’s me.”
When you witness a young person internalize his or her bad days, concluding, “It’s my fault,” how might you empathize? Interestingly it is Alexander who ends up empathizing and offering a bit of wisdom that brings everyone’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day to a close. But, you will have to wait to see the film before I spoil it for you.
See the film. Don’t take it in thinking you will be watching academy performances. Consider it a good piece of story telling with a good dose of opportunity. Take the occasion to talk with your children about how we experience life. While it may be true everyone has a bad day, we all take those days differently. Choosing to be dismissive because bad days are ubiquitous for we humans will reap hazardous rewards with your children.