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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.01%
Just Average: 16.81%
Pretty Crappy: 2.52%
Sucks: 3.36%

9 reviews, 65 user ratings

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Little Miss Sunshine
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by brianorndorf

"Maybe Sundance isn't a soul-sucking pisshole after all"
5 stars

Unaccustomed to true delights raining from the Sundance Film Fest heavens, consider me shocked to find something as perfect as “Little Miss Sunshine.” This is one of the best films of the year; a living, breathing comedy with a juicy heart, convincing anger, and a deserved bombastic ending that will shake every theater in America.

The Hoovers are a noisy dysfunctional family from Albuquerque with little in common. When the youngest member of the clan, Olive (Abigail Breslin, “Signs”), gets her prized shot at the Little Miss Sunshine child beauty pageant, she attempts to convince her family, including failed motivational speaker Richard (Greg Kinnear), exasperated mother Sheryl (Toni Collette), silent brother Dwayne (Paul Dano), suicidal uncle Frank (Steve Carell), and her bitter grandfather (Alan Arkin) to take a road trip to California to participate. Loading up a dilapidated VW bus, the family heads west, only to experience every setback imaginable on their journey.

The Sundance Film Festival stumbles along every year with a smorgasbord of indie movie offerings that hipsters and overfed film reporters dote on with smug satisfaction. Rarely do the selections pay off their hype. “Little Miss Sunshine” is the exception to the rule, and in a very big way.

The paint on the outside and the smell on the inside suggest “Sunshine” is just another factory assembled dysfunctional family road trip movie. We’ve seen that, but not nearly this surprising or this cleverly realized. Here the grumpy grandpa snorts heroin in his free time, and the depressed gay uncle is a puddle of sadness, unable to break his cycle of self-loathing. None of this is recognizable territory, and that’s how “Sunshine” snaps the viewer out of the fog of low expectations immediately.

Screenwriter Michael Arndt isn’t looking for clichés to bleed dry; instead, he tries to build something special with the Hoovers. The interaction within the family feels authentically prickly, with the hint of a warm undercurrent of love when things go their way. Arndt nurtures the relationships skillfully throughout the picture, knowing exactly where to up the ante or pay the characters off satisfactorily. This is a terrific script that doesn’t buckle when facing delicate situations, nor does it pander to the mass crowds, enthusiastically offering characters that aren’t always likable or do the right thing.

It helps to have a fantastic cast to fill out the edges of the writing, and directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton have assembled a wonderful ensemble to give the Hoovers life. The standouts are Greg Kinnear, channeling a pitch-perfect sense of panic at the dissolution of his dreams, and Carell, who conveys a multiplicity of sadness behind his medicated indifference. The whole troupe delivers in a big way, and considering they spend most of the film trapped in a bus, each actor is still able to make their motivations heard.

As the Hoovers cross the Southwest, Dayton and Faris gently nurse the anxiety of the road trip. It doesn’t quite reach Griswold proportions, but the film isn’t fearful of silly situations to counteract the somewhat heavy themes of toxic familial interaction. The directors keep their eye trained on every character, and like Frank screams after losing Olive to simple oversight, “no one gets lefts behind.” Indeed, the film feels rounded and rewarding, where every step of development is thought out beforehand, but still remains unexpected when flashed in front of you. This is fine bit of direction from two former music video maestros.

No doubt about it, “Little Miss Sunshine” reaches for the heavens with a broadly constructed finale designed to bring the house down. After such commitment to character and crisp demonstration of ability to find their way out of iffy dramatic situations, “Sunshine” earns every last drop of go-for-broke audience pleasing.

It may appear to be another insignificant Sundance offering on the outside, but “Little Miss Sunshine” is an enchanting, rewarding picture that should not be passed over.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13577&reviewer=404
originally posted: 07/28/06 03:08:33
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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
6/02/10 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
7/09/09 the dork knight Why didn't the jurors just shut the music off? 4 stars
5/14/08 matt this movie's the bomb diggety! 5 stars
5/02/08 Pamela White real life can suck your dreams out of you. 5 stars
4/29/08 Mintaka A brilliant satire that lived up to all my high expectations. 5 stars
2/02/08 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
5/29/07 John A perfect blend of comedy with grim reality, hope with failure. 5 stars
5/01/07 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
4/28/07 Geraldine Quirky, dysfunctional, hilarious, heartwarming 5 stars
3/21/07 G so cute-- even the most dysfunctional families CAN come together 4 stars
3/02/07 Ann I LOVED this movie! It really puts family life & sticking together in perspective =] 5 stars
2/28/07 Donny M Worst movie ever. 1 stars
1/27/07 Edith Tide Reasonably entertaining comedy, but Oscar noms. only highlight what a lean year 2006 was. 3 stars
1/23/07 dbx Predictable, contrived, cutesy. Should be called "Not Another Indie Movie" instead. 1 stars
1/22/07 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
11/23/06 Sean Flat out Hilarious 5 stars
11/15/06 KC Absolutely charming, funny and touching film. Highly recommended. 5 stars
11/13/06 Mark Nice. heartfelt. I enjoyed it. 4 stars
10/20/06 Karan Above Perfect 5 stars
10/13/06 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
10/06/06 Laura Thoroughly impressed! Can't wait to watch it again! 5 stars
10/05/06 Kole Brilliant 5 stars
10/03/06 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
9/28/06 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
9/26/06 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
9/20/06 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
9/12/06 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
9/10/06 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
9/04/06 R.W.Welch Deftly done comedy underlayered with some pathos. Quite original. 5 stars
9/03/06 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
8/27/06 Luisa Heart-warming, entertaining, funny flick...great actors! 5 stars
8/24/06 Suzz Very funny, well-acted, well-written film 5 stars
8/19/06 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
8/16/06 nancy n pretty unrealistic, but pretty charming nontheless 4 stars
8/15/06 Josh Jolcover amazing piece of work, funny, yet dramatic, great acting 5 stars
8/13/06 Heather Dry, satirical look at the "American Dream" 5 stars
8/12/06 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
7/19/06 Irma Ecksel A delight, both funny and lots of pathos. 5 stars
5/19/06 JP BEST MOVIE AT SUNDANCE I ONLY SAW 2 thought 5 stars
1/23/06 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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