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Little Miss Sunshine

2006 Independent comedy-drama

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Every Night it's the @#$^ing Chicken

  • May 5, 2008
  • by
Pros: Wonderful ensemble cast. Well acted. Alan Arkin's lines.

Cons: Drags in a couple of spots. Alan Arkin's lines.

The Bottom Line: Strange and wonderful, well acted and unique. I've never seen anything like it. I have seen it at least six times and I love it more for repeat watching.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

"You don't speak because of Frederic Nietzsche? (pause) Cool." One of my favorite lines in the movie. Spoken by Frank (Steve Carell) to his nephew Dwayne (Paul Dano), it helps establish that this movie will depart from the ordinary.

I went to see Little Miss Sunshine with a group of friends while my husband was at the Burning Man Festival. I took my husband to see it the day after he got back because I knew he would love it.

At first glance, one might think this is a very silly movie but it cuts to the quick and moves into deeper issues very quickly.

The basic premise in one sentence could be: "A family takes a little girl to a beauty pageant and has adventures along the way."

And oh what adventures they have.

The cast is packed with talent. That is where the viewer gets the bang for the buck. There is not a lot of money spent on special effects. The cinematography is interesting but not elaborate. There are long shots of the desert landscapes between Albuquerque and Redondo Beach. These long shots featuring the VW Van (a main character in its own right) are accompanied by the quirky and melancholy melodic theme that weaves its way through the film.

Olive Hoover(Abigail Breslin) has earned a place in the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant. Her father, Richard Hoover (Greg Kinnear) is the aspiring developer of a self-improvement plan for winners. He's pathetic and trite and seems to be on the verge of the big break that will never happen. Olive is "coached" by her grandfather Grandpa Edwin Hoover(Alan Arkin who won best supporting actor for this role). Grandpa is a crotchety old man who has been kicked out of his retirement home for snorting heroin.

Olive is supported by her mother Sheryl (Toni Collette) who wants her little pudgy girl to have the opportunity to compete. The issue is complicated by the arrival of the recently suicidal uncle Frank and the unwilling participation of Olive's brother Dwayne who has taken a vow of silence.

Here we have six strong personalities who have to come together on the goal of getting to Redondo Beach by day after tomorrow.

Add complications to the effort. The VW van blows a clutch and has to be push started so that the clutch can be popped from third gear. I don't think I would find this so funny if I hadn't had to push a car myself to get it rolling. There is a lot of visual comedy associated with this family moving themselves down the highway as they get this van rolling. Add the fact that the Grandpa overdoses on heroin and dies on the way. This sounds awful, but the writers and directors find a way to make it astound and amuse the viewer and rouse support for hiding his body in the trunk.

The mostly non-verbal performance of Paul Dano as Dwayne is worthy of acclaim. He is every emo kid any of us have ever known plus some. I can't repeat the first word that he does utter in this movie. The viewer will understand his angst.

And then. . . there is the pageant.

If you have ever had a relation (I have) put their child through the pageant circuit you will recognize the large financial investment and emotional intensity of the pageant parents.

Hosted by Matt Winston (late of John from Cincinnati fame as Barry the Fairy) the pageant takes on a surreal quality. The little girls are almost frightening in their precocity. The viewer can see the participants being bred to become trophy wives.

Olive steals the show. The finale of this movie is one of the most unexpected and just downright fun scenes I've ever seen. It's a kick in the pants to a lot of people.

I love this movie. It's funny, dark, quirky, sweet and overall uplifting. Buy the DVD. It will continue to entertain.

Nominated for Best Picture, Little Miss Sunshine is often sad and then sweet. It is always entertaining.


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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More Little Miss Sunshine reviews
review by . May 12, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Lil' Miss Can't Be Wrong
Every year the box offices around the world have at least one movie which surprisingly will earn a killing & leave me completely baffled. OK, that's too broad. Let me try again. The film will definitely rack up at the box offices but the film is somewhat of an indie fave. Does that help any? These films aren't especially bad  & could actually be enjoyable films on any given day but..just don't seem to be anything really special overall & I  don't get the mass hype surrounding …
Quick Tip by . June 15, 2010
review by . December 08, 2008
In the past few years, there has been an onslaught of adorable, indie films. Some of them I have loved. Some of them I've disliked -- mostly because I find them too precious, too strategically quirky and "unconventional." In many senses, Little Miss Sunshine falls into both categories. It is both a wonderfully charming film, full of soul and vitality. But it sometimes falls into some of the quirkier-than-thou cliches, which is what prevented me from giving a higher score. But I liked it -- period. …
review by . February 11, 2009
This very funny comedy concerns Olive, a sweet little seven-year old who wants to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in California. She lives with her eccentric family in New Mexico, so the whole brood piles into the old VW bus for a road trip, and there's never a dull moment. Her father (Greg Kinnear) is a failed motivational speaker, her grandfather (Alan Arkin) is a trouble-making curmudgeon, her uncle (Steve Carell) is suicidal, her mother (Toni Collette) is always screaming, and her …
review by . June 03, 2008
Little Olive just wants to enter the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant. Her parents are going to take her there. Run-of-the-mill family road trip, right? What could possibly go wrong? Add into the mix a suicidal uncle, a brother who's taken the vow of silence, and a grandfather who was kicked out of a retirement home for snorting heroin, and you've got the perfect recipe for unpredictable disaster that's anything but ordinary.  This is one of those movies where outrageous and consequently hilarious …
review by . November 01, 2008
Six people in a mini-bus   Driving from Albuquerque   These folk are so dysfunctional   They're way past being "quirky"     Dad's nine steps are faltering   Mom's just tired and stressed   Granddad's snorting heroin   While Uncle is depressed     Brother's chosen to be mute   His family gets him down   Olive only wants a chance   To win a pageant crown     Trouble …
review by . June 10, 2008
Despite its somewhat quirky story line, Little Miss Sunshine is not only great to watch, but is something that one can easily relate to. Unlike your typical movie that paints the picture of the perfect American family, Little Miss Sunshine shows the more realistic side of the typical family dichotomy--financial worries, care of elderly relatives, depression, and dreams deferred.The movie provides a funny, albeit exaggerated, perspective on the things that bind us together even when life is not going …
review by . May 24, 2007
When I first saw this film, I was mightily disapointed. It had been pushed as a comedy, so I expected to, you know, laugh. I didn't. Well, not until the pagent scene. The look on Greg Kinnear's face was priceless, and pretty well summed-up my view of such pagents.    But I could tell there was something good in this movie, so about a month later I watched it again, and was much happier. The performances by the entire cast were wonderful, particularly Alan Arkin. I was also pleased …
review by . April 04, 2007
I saw this with a group of friends who didn't know much about the film. After about 30 minutes, one of them commented, "Is this suppose to be a comedy?" That's pretty much the feeling for the first half of the film, but once the characters are established, the viewer is set up for one of the most charming displays of a family bonding ever in a film.    The family is extremely messed up. It felt like we were visiting a home where we were seeing things that we shouldn't be seeing. …
review by . February 19, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Imagine a family having dinner. The husband talks about a "Nine Steps To Success" plan he has made into a book, which he plans to sell to the world and make millions. He is obsessed with success because he's had very little success of his own. A little girl watches a beauty pageant with intensity you rarely see in a child, as she dreams of a future that will never come. A teenage boy who appears to hate EVERYONE has taken a vow of silence until he reaches his dream goal of becoming a test pilot! …
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Little Miss Sunshine is a comedy-drama about a dysfunctional family's road trip to a children's beauty pageant. The film won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature and starred Greg Kinnear, Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, and Alan Arkin.
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Movies, Comedy Movies, Indie Movies, Steve Carell Movies, Alan Arkin Movies, Paul Dano Movies, Greg Kinnear Movies, Steve Carell, Abigail Breslin Movies, Little Miss Sunshine, Toni Collette Movies
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