If you think that Team Oz is doing it tough under the stewardship of the fork-tongued, knuckle-dragger and his mob of reptilian droogs, spare a thought for the Coopers and the calamities that befall them on an otherwise clear and sunny California day.
This is one of those Disney family movies that are so easy to mock but so difficult to not enjoy. It is neither more nor less than what it presents itself as – harmless but pithy in its observations, funny without being uproarious (though I did have a couple of laugh-out-loud moments), and smart enough to credit its audience, young and old, with at least a modicum of intelligence.
Twelve-year-old Alexander (the endearing Australian, Ed Oxenbould) feels alienated, put upon and depressed because his upcoming birthday party has been overshadowed by that of a hipper kid.
To make matters worse, he is also suffering from a crush on the unobtainable Becky (Sidney Fullmer). His wish to be understood comes true when everybody else in the household is plunged into utter chaos.
Unemployed Dad (Steve Carell) has a job opportunity put at stake, Mom (Jennifer Garner) sees her publishing project in a shambles, Emily (Kerris Dorsey), about to make her stage debut in the school play, is stricken with the flu and Anthony (Dylan Minette) blows his driving test only hours before he is due to be crowned Duke at the junior prom.
Watching it all unfold is baby Trevor, who eats green ink.
All of the threads of the story are neatly and logically entwined, the edit bounces along at a rate that avoids flat periods and the morality – of getting back up when you are knocked down – is inoffensively hopeful.
It’s no stretch for Carell, but Garner is wonderful, while the youthful support cast, including Bella Thorne as Celia, Anthony’s drop-dead gorgeous prom date, are immensely personable.
I liked it heaps, and the closing scene, involving an INXS number and a trio of raunchy Aussie drovers, is a hoot.
~ John Campbell