Little Miss Sunshine (2006) Review

Little Miss Sunshine (2006) Review 1
| Aug 18, 2006

A great deal has already been said about this brilliantly produced family comedy from a duo of music video directors and a first-time screenwriter. Hopefully, I’ll be forgiven for adding my voice to the avalanche of overwhelming praise for this film, but the fact of the matter is that it is truly deserving of all the accolades and commendations it’s receiving.

The Hoover clan can’t possibly be more dysfunctional. Dad (Greg Kinnear) is an aspiring self-help guru; Mom (Toni Collette) is over-worked; Uncle Frank (Steve Carell) is suicidal after a love affair gone wrong; Grandpa (Alan Arkin) does heroin and refuses to stop being a curmudgeon, and teen-aged Dwayne (Paul Dano) has taken a vow of silence till he’s achieved his goal of being a fighter pilot. Little Olive (Abigail Breslin) just wants to be a beauty queen though, and after a litany of local pageants it looks like she’s on her way after being invited to the finals of the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. So the whole family piles into a yellow VW bus and heads off from their home in New Mexico to Southern California taking their dysfunctions along for the ride.

Little Miss Sunshine is just so wonderfully sad; the comedy comes from such a genuine place that you feel things just aren’t going to get much better for these characters. It’s a real feeling too because there are days when we’ve all been there, when one thing compounds on the other and before you know it, the circumstances have outpaced your ability to cope. The film also shows heart because at the end of the day, no matter how calamitous our relationship with our family is, we love them unconditionally. You get the message loud and clear from the final scenes at the pageant, and directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris do it with almost no dialogue.

The performances are stellar, especially Carell and Arkin. Carell is the master of understatement, although in a totally different, non-Office kind of way, not to mention the fact that he’s unrecognizable under a bushy beard. Arkin is hysterically bombastic as he tries to engage his voluntarily mute grandson in a conversation about JB and why having a Nazi bullet in his butt gives him free reign to speak his mind. Kinnear ably proves that his fame isn’t a fluke with the way he injects the slightest hint that his motivational speaker character may not buy into his own hype.

Final Thoughts

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Little Miss Sunshine (2006) Review
Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear
Running Time:
101 min
CGM Editors Choice