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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.01%
Average: 16.81%
Pretty Bad: 2.52%
Total Crap: 3.36%

9 reviews, 65 user ratings

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Little Miss Sunshine
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by EricDSnider

"The family that puts the 'querque' in Albuquerque."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: I'm writing this review of "Little Miss Sunshine" on Feb. 22, exactly four weeks after I saw the film at Sundance. Usually there isn't such a gap between screening the movie and reviewing it, of course, but this was the 24th movie I saw at the festival, and I had to write the other 23 reviews first.

The problem is that now, almost a month later, I'm not sure why I liked "Little Miss Sunshine" as much as I did. I jotted "B+" in my notes at the end of the screening, and I remember laughing most of the way through it. But as I look at my notes, and as I recall the details, I think: This movie is derivative.

It's one of those indie comedies about a dysfunctional family where everyone is screwed up in some particular way, and I've seen that movie a thousand times. There's even a lengthy sequence that's stolen from "National Lampoon's Vacation" and doesn't fit in this movie at all. I know I thought it was a B+ on Jan. 25, but time has faded my feelings and all I'm left with now are the facts, which are less complimentary.

Kids, this is why you should always write your reviews within a few days of seeing the movie.

Now then. The Hoovers are a middle-class family in Albuquerque with a host of problems. Richard (Greg Kinnear), the father, is a motivational speaker, but he seems to be failing at that, which is somewhat ironic, you'll agree. Mom Sheryl (Toni Collette) has her act together, but her gay college professor brother Frank (Steve Carell), America's "most highly regarded Proust scholar," has just attempted suicide. Richard's father (Alan Arkin) has been evicted from a retirement home because of his heroin addiction.

Richard and Sheryl's children have not been spared, either. Seven-year-old Olive (Abigail Breslin), a little pudgy and plain, wants to enter beauty pageants. Her brother Dwayne (Paul Dano) is 15, has been reading Nietzsche, and has decided to take a vow of utter silence until he gets into the Air Force Academy. He's got nothing to say to his messed-up relatives anyway.

The movie takes off when the six Hoovers pile into the minivan and head to California, where Olive has been invited to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. Are they bound for three days of bickering, sulking and ultimately reconciling? Indeed they are. Do they encounter all manner of vehicular wackiness along the way, including a van that won't start unless everyone's pushing it? Heavens, yes!

This is a comedy of angst, with bitter, dark laughs that belie the film's eventual "families gotta stick together" message. Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, working from a script by Michael Arndt, find regular amusement in the family's sullenness, often arranging shots with all six of them together, not smiling, not looking at each other, just silently being miserable.

And it's funny. My goodness, it's funny. That much I remember. Steve Carell continues his hot streak with a subtle turn as Frank, and Greg Kinnear plays his smarmy, clueless character for all it's worth. The humor is more verbal than physical, and the delivery from these two particular squeezes out more hilarity than you'd have thought the lines contained.

What the film is not is a classic. It's good for some laughs, but I don't see it holding up to multiple viewings, particularly some of the more shenanigan-oriented sequences (including an eye-roller of a bit that involves corpse-stealing). See, here it is, only a month later, and already I'm over it. I sure liked it on Jan. 25, though.

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originally posted: 02/25/06 15:34:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/14/15 ER Great script, greater acting without a false note. 5 stars
6/03/10 User Name Smart, charming, and origianl; basically, it's all that Hollwood isn't.. 4 stars
8/06/09 Simon Funny, sincere, inspiring, well-acted... A rare complete dramedy 5 stars
8/01/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess for a truly great blend of black comedy and harsh reality see, something by Todd Solondz. 2 stars
7/10/09 the dork knight Why didn't the jurors just shut the music off? 4 stars
5/15/08 matt this movie's the bomb diggety! 5 stars
5/03/08 Pamela White real life can suck your dreams out of you. 5 stars
4/30/08 Mintaka A brilliant satire that lived up to all my high expectations. 5 stars
2/03/08 Anne I don't see many films more than once, but this one, I did 5 stars
12/06/07 Adrian A chick movie I liked! 4 stars
7/27/07 Alisa Ann I saw it last night, and it was a very good movie 5 stars
7/11/07 Hello Stranger abigail is awesome in this. so heartwarming this movie 5 stars
6/09/07 MP Bartley Just lovely. Superb ensemble acting. 4 stars
5/30/07 John A perfect blend of comedy with grim reality, hope with failure. 5 stars
5/02/07 Anthony One of the best films of 2006. An absolute gem of a movie. 5 stars
4/29/07 Tim thought is was bad smut, the worst, had to have no brain to write such junk. 1 stars
4/29/07 Geraldine Quirky, dysfunctional, hilarious, heartwarming 5 stars
3/22/07 G so cute-- even the most dysfunctional families CAN come together 4 stars
3/03/07 Ann I LOVED this movie! It really puts family life & sticking together in perspective =] 5 stars
3/01/07 Donny M Worst movie ever. 1 stars
1/28/07 Edith Tide Reasonably entertaining comedy, but Oscar noms. only highlight what a lean year 2006 was. 3 stars
1/24/07 dbx Predictable, contrived, cutesy. Should be called "Not Another Indie Movie" instead. 1 stars
1/23/07 bullit16 Very cute movie. Abigail Breslin is a star in the making. 4 stars
12/28/06 Phil M. Aficionado Liked it in spots, but clumsy overall and a bit offputtiing and hokey 3 stars
12/14/06 The Deadly Assassin The best comedy of 2006 !!! 5 stars
11/24/06 Sean Flat out Hilarious 5 stars
11/16/06 KC Absolutely charming, funny and touching film. Highly recommended. 5 stars
11/14/06 Mark Nice. heartfelt. I enjoyed it. 4 stars
10/20/06 Karan Above Perfect 5 stars
10/14/06 Eric Beautiful comedy. Only movie to ever make me cry from laughter and sadness. Perfect. 5 stars
10/12/06 John One for my All time fav. films - 5 stars
10/07/06 Laura Thoroughly impressed! Can't wait to watch it again! 5 stars
10/06/06 Kole Brilliant 5 stars
10/04/06 Monday Morning Wonderful ensemble and writing -- final product is a top-notch comedy. 5 stars
9/29/06 Hart Its heart-warming to know that Hollywood still comes out with such rare gems. A must watch. 5 stars
9/29/06 Bob Cather Sure to be on the top 10 movies of the year list. It is my # 1 pick 5 stars
9/27/06 Raj 5/5 - A rare film - Oscar material 5 stars
9/27/06 Dan Spent a perfect day wasting my time at this movie. 2 stars
9/26/06 Kristina Krumpfelhagen Better than most "disfunctional family on road trip" phliks. 4 stars
9/24/06 Clare M It has a bit of all of us in it...laughed 'till I cried 5 stars
9/21/06 Jesus Loved it, perfect. Great acting and I love Paul Dano. 5 stars
9/19/06 PD Excellent cast + performances; endearing and comedic, if a little over the top at times 4 stars
9/18/06 JAyb123 Fantastic, Best movie of the year thus far 5 stars
9/13/06 Bitchflaps Frovolous, mawkish schmaltz dressed up as a kind of Happy Shopper Royal Tenenbaums. 2 stars
9/11/06 pppppppp one of the worst movies I have ever seen. 1 stars
9/11/06 jcjs Alan Arkin, Greg Kinnear and all perfect fun, great show on many levels 5 stars
9/07/06 tony lacombe finally,a funny comedy!!!!! 5 stars
9/05/06 R.W.Welch Deftly done comedy underlayered with some pathos. Quite original. 5 stars
9/04/06 Yolanda Funny, kooky movie. Look for love in the craziness of your own family. It's there-hopefully 5 stars
8/31/06 Pn. Stop me before I laugh again! 5 stars
8/30/06 Killjoy How come Toni always does amazing films? She is a lucky mascot! 5 stars
8/28/06 Luisa Heart-warming, entertaining, funny flick...great actors! 5 stars
8/25/06 Suzz Very funny, well-acted, well-written film 5 stars
8/20/06 Bill Outstanding movie!! Can't wait to see it again. 5 stars
8/18/06 Ekkostar Worth it if Bryan Cranston is somewhere in it. 4 stars
8/17/06 nancy n pretty unrealistic, but pretty charming nontheless 4 stars
8/16/06 Josh Jolcover amazing piece of work, funny, yet dramatic, great acting 5 stars
8/14/06 Heather Dry, satirical look at the "American Dream" 5 stars
8/13/06 Mase Nice refreshing summer flick!! Toni Collette is surely one of the best actressess out there 5 stars
8/06/06 Mark A screwball comedy with a heart 4 stars
7/26/06 Andrea Bloom Best comedy I've seen in a long, long time. 5 stars
7/20/06 Irma Ecksel A delight, both funny and lots of pathos. 5 stars
5/20/06 JP BEST MOVIE AT SUNDANCE I ONLY SAW 2 thought 5 stars
1/24/06 Ellen James Amazing movie and great cast, it is perfect! Keeps you laughing the whole way through! 5 stars
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  26-Jul-2006 (R)
  DVD: 19-Dec-2006



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