CORY WOODROOF

Unlike a lot of family-centric efforts these days, Disney’s latest live-action venture “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” knows exactly what it needs to do in order to be successful.

Unlike a lot of family-centric efforts these days, Disney’s latest live-action venture “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” knows exactly what it needs to do in order to be successful.

Lots of cringe-worthy kiddie efforts simply throw around a lot of schoolyard drama, bodily humor and shallow pop culture references to appease their young audiences, leaving Mom and Dad anxiously scrolling through their dimmed iPhones.

It’s a shame that many live-action comedies thrown at children have the same brain capacity of a ticket stub. When family comedies actually try to appeal to the whole family, the results are often some of the more sweetly satisfying titles on the market.

Disney rarely cranks out a stinker from its Mouse House of magic, and ‘Alexander’ is no different.

The film, a loose adaptation of the classic children’s book, takes a simple premise and stretches it as far as it needs to go, weaving a little heart in between.

The pre-teen Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) loves his family, but he’s tired of seeing them all flaunt around their recent successes. Mom Kelly (Jennifer Garner) is about to launch her way to a new position at a publishing company, Dad Ben (Steve Carell) is interviewing for a new job opportunity of his own, older sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey) is preparing for a big school performance as Peter Pan, older brother Anthony (Dylan Minnette) is set for a big prom night and even the baby brother is beginning to speak.

Resentment leads Alexander to wish on a birthday candle that his all-smiles family would experience the kind of downer day that he’s having, and just like that, the misfortunes start to pile on to the Cooper family in hilarious fashion.

At 81 minutes, the film doesn’t have a lot of time to do a whole lot with its story. The ‘Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’ starts, the characters go about their daily tasks with rotten luck and Alexander begins to immediately feel guilty for his wish. But, in true Disney fashion, the family takes the high road and vows to navigate the craziness together.

In other hands, ‘Alexander’ could have been an hour-and-a-half thunderstorm of brainless slapstick comedy that only found favor in the eyes of adolescents. But, just like the on-screen family, the movie decides to choose sentiment over silliness. A movie that could have been shallow and juvenile shows a great deal of maturity with the way it advances its plot. Director Miguel Arteta handles the balance of humor and heart well.

That being said, kids will still be rolling in their seats because, after all, this is a movie rooted in misadventures. Things break, a baby pees on a floor and chews up a green marker, more things break and things catch on fire. While ‘Alexander’ finds an endearing center to its story, the humor and its Disney Channel-level conflict is still squarely aimed at the 12 and under crowd. However, that isn’t to say that parents and other adult onlookers won’t find the film funny and relatable.

Screenwriter Rob Lieber does a nice job with making the film’s characters actual people and not kiddie movie caricatures. The actors also all fit their roles nicely. Each of them bring authenticity to their performances, and the Cooper family meshes well with one another.

Family comedies often have ingrained limitations that keep them from being anything more than, well, family comedies, but “Alexander” takes the limitations of the genre and turns out a successful product anyway. This is one of the more successful films of its kind since the first “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” adaptation.

“Alexander” is a movie the whole family will enjoy, everyone from Pops to middle school son to baby. And, with the movie ticket pricing for a family of four as high as it has ever been, can we really afford any more family films that don’t meet this criteria?