Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

DVD Cover (Fox Searchlight)
Genres: Comedy Drama, Domestic Comedy, Ensemble Film, Road Movie
A family determined to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant take a cross-country trip in their VW bus. --IMDb
Jonathan Dayton Jonathan Dayton
Valerie Faris Valerie Faris
Abigail Breslin Abigail Breslin
Greg Kinnear Greg Kinnear
Paul Dano Paul Dano
Alan Arkin Alan Arkin
Toni Collette Toni Collette
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7.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: August 30, 2006
Each year produces one of those 'it' films that generates buzz at Sundance and then turns into something of a nationwide sensation before all is said and done. The most recent and notable entries into that company have been "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Garden State" - two quirky little films that found lots of love in Utah, which translated to outstanding box office receipts and the kind of cult following that most mainstream Hollywood pictures dream of attracting. The 'it' film for 2006 is currently in a theatre near you - "Little Miss Sunshine" - an indie film through and through, the reason why Sundance was created in the first place, and the best film of 2006. You walk into the theatre expecting something totally different from what you end up receiving, and you find yourself going through a wide range of emotions. I laughed. I cried. I cheered. I was extremely disappointed when the film was over and wanted to see more of this wonderfully dysfunctional family. "Little Miss Sunshine" is the gem of 2006, and it will be the gem of your 2006 also.

This film is about a family than puts the 'fun' in 'dysfunctional'. Greg Kinnear stars as Richard, a motivational speaker who pushes his '9-Steps' program, even though he has very little talent for motivational speaking. Toni Collette stars as Sheryl, his seemingly normal wife who tries her best to look on the bright side, even when the dark side is barreling at her at 100 miles per hour. Steve Carell is Frank, the world's utmost Proust scholar who fails at suicide and finds himself living with his sister and her family. Alan Arkin is Grandpa, who took Nazi bullets, loves pornography, and also happens to have a tiny little heroine addiction. Paul Dano is the son, Dwayne, who has taken a vow of silence until he is accepted into the Air Force - he loves Nietzsche. And, Abigail Beslin is Olive, who wants desperately to be a beauty queen and loves her grandpa very much. The adventure begins when Olive learns that she has won a pageant that makes he eligible for the Little Miss Sunshine competition in California. Though they really cannot afford it, the entire family load aboard the VW van and head West, with the hopes of Olive taking home the prize. A slew of things happen to the family on their trek West, which I will not divulge, but they bring back memories of classic comedic road movies like "National Lampoon's Vacation" and even "Raising Arizona". Directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton have perfected on both of those films. This film is much better.

What makes "Little Miss Sunshine" work is a lot. The script, penned by Michael Arndt, is the best of this year, or any other in recent memory. It snaps, crackles, and pops with wit, heart, and the kind of humor that either makes you chuckle silently to yourself, or so loudly that you start getting on the nerves of the conservative assholes around you. The direction is spot-on, and Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton have a fine film career ahead of them, outside of music videos - they understand what makes this film so funny and they nail every single piece of charm they possibly can in these two hours of entertainment. A prime example of a perfectly executed scene comes when the family makes a pit stop at a gas station - each family member taking some part in making the side trip memorable, from Grandpa's porn addiction to Olive's getting left behind. Throw into the mix a VW van that only runs in third gear and a horn that goes off randomly and you have a film that leaves nothing to chance. "Little Miss Sunshine" is determined to make sure you have a great time.

In terms of the performances, there are four Oscar-worthy performances here. Most notably is Steve Carell as Frank, his best role to date, and one of the most honest and genuine performances of the year - I cannot wait to see what roles Carell tackles next. In a fine supporting turn, Alan Arkin steals the show as Grandpa, proving once more why he is such an underrated genius in both comedy and drama. I remember "13 Conversations About One Thing" from a few years ago, and he should have received a nomination for that film. This is his year. And, Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette really delivers as the parents in the film, each really giving the audience a character to really care about by the end of the film. Of course, newcomer Abigail Beslin is the one most people remember after leaving the theatre, and that is understandable. She really is delightful, and awarding her with a nomination would be a very brave thing for the Academy to do, even though she certainly would deserve such accolades. Even Bryan Cranston's cameo is really very entertaining.

I expect big things from "Little Miss Sunshine". It is already making lots of money at the box office and just about every critic in the country, myself included, loves it. Do not be surprised to find this film littered with Academy Award nominations, most certainly: Michael Arndt for Best Original Screenplay, Alan Arkin for Best Supporting Actor, and maybe even a Best Picture nomination and various others. Also expect this film to win the Golden Globe for Best Comedy/Musical. There's not much else to say other than - this was the best film of 2006, the most entertaining film of the year, and one of the best films I have ever seen. Expect "Little Miss Sunshine" to creep onto my list of the Top 25 Films of All-Time, and the last film to do that was "Imaginary Heroes" from two years ago. I smiled all the way through the film and out of the theatre. You will too. I promise.

Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg #1: Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg - added 01/04/2007, 05:53 AM
I went into this movie looking for a big comedic ride with just a ton of laughs. I didn't necessarily find that once the movie ended, but neither was I left disappointed. This is a very enjoyable movie with a great story built around a simple plot. There's plenty of fun, delightful, and heartwarming moments to be found.

Mr. Mistoffelees #2: Mr. Mistoffelees - added 12/21/2007, 12:42 PM
I couldn't figure out the type of humor in the movie. I guess it was dark or ridiculous humor, but sometimes the humor didn't necessarily strike me as hard as I thought it should. The end scene with her dance was pretty good, but the rest I kind of felt sorry for the family as a whole, which might have been a plot device.
Ashlee #3: Ashlee - added 03/14/2008, 04:41 PM
One of the best movies I've ever seen- Paul Dano is very good, Abigail Breslin is adorable, it's both funny and dramatic. I can watch it so many times and not get sick of it. Much like Juno.
Crispy #4: Crispy - added 05/01/2014, 01:08 AM
Absolutely loved it. Highly recommended.
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