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Little Miss Sunshine

2006 Independent comedy-drama

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Ladies and Gentlemen: It's Time For Little Miss Sunshine

  • Feb 19, 2007
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! A grandpa eats chicken and snorts cocain, catching up on all the stupid mistakes he wished he had made as a kid. A uncle who attempted suicide failed in his attempt to kill himself, and now must learn to pick up the pieces in his life again. Then we have a mom who loves her family dearly, but finds herself about to explode trying to keep it together.

This is the Hoover family, a family that is dysfunctional, all have dreams, and don't quite know what to do with themselves. They are all stuck in their daily routine, letting their problems and worries pile up until there is almost nowhere left to pile them. Then one day the daughter, Olive (Abigail Breslin, who fully deserves her Best Supporting Actress nomination), gets a call from the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Due to a previous contender dropping out of the competition due to diet pills (they grow up so fast these days) Olive is now entered into the competition. With no money to get to the pageant by plane though the dad, Richard (Greg Kinnear), packs up the family for a road trip to California in order to get Olive to Little Miss Sunshine. No one in the family (save for Olive) is happy about this trip.

Neither Grandpa (Alan Arkin) or son Dwayne (Paul Dano) want to go on the trip, but due to Uncle Frank's (Steve Carell) suicide attempt has to come along (because it would be irresponsible to leave these two alone in the house to watch Uncle Frank). With dear old mom Sheryl (Toni Collette) the only one who could possibly keep this family from killing each other, she too is along for the road trip. Things don't always go as smoothly as they should though. In what becomes one of the best running gags in the movie, the stick shift of their mini-bus breaks, so they have to constantly push the mini-bus until they can get it into the third gear. Grandpa gives Dwayne advice my grandpa would have never given me, as when he justifies his cocain addition by saying "When you're young you'd be dumb to snort cocain. When you're old you'd be dumb not to."

These people have issues, but it doesn't matter. Really, it doesn't. This is not a movie about dysfunctional people who overcome their quirks to become "normal." No, this is a movie about people who are dysfunctional and come to terms with the fact that they, and everyone else around them, are dysfunctional too. The point is that they all love each other. Overcoming personal quirks is a battle you're destined to fail, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a moron. But quirks can be embraced and become redeeming features about you. One of these quirks is the way Frank runs. Truth be told, it's a silly looking run, one that you would easily mock if you saw it on the street. Once you see it a few times though, you realize that the run is a result of his attempts to get his life back on track, one foot after the other. It's just one of many examples of the excellent acting and character development found in the film.

Of course, the reason all this works above all else is because the movie is funny. Looking back at what I wrote, I realize I must have made this movie sound like a drama. Well, there are some dramatic moments, but this is a comedy through and through. In lesser movies about road trips (I'm looking at you "RV") the characters would get themselves into situations that wanted to be funny but weren't. Most of the time these situations involve main characters getting covered in fecal matter, family deputes over little things like how they look, and the road trip itself would be the cover up for a big meeting dad has to go to.

In this movie no one gets covered in unmentionables, the conversations about beauty are talked about frankly instead of stupidly, and the road trip really is about the pageant itself. If there is a flaw to the movie it's the beauty pageant itself. We have so much fun on the road, that when we get to the pageant itself it's kind of weird and creepy. Seeing all these seven year old kids walking around with makeup on and dressing in [...]dresses is certainly accurate, but disturbing none-the-less. When the movie ends there is sense of wanting to continue with the family to see where their life goes, but also a sense that they've come to grips with who they are, and though they will still be dysfunctional when they get home, they will also live better lives as a result of this trip. Once again the old saying that the destination is not as important as the journey itself proves true once again.

Rating: **** stars

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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 05, 2008
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 …
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. …
About the reviewer
Kevin T. Rodriguez ()
Ranked #127
Kevin T. Rodriguez is an aspiring film journalist. He's more comfortable typing a review then doing an on-camera appearance, but he loves doing the occasional rant. Whether it be on movies, eBay, or comics, … more
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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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