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Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Now, my problems with the movie in question mostly deal with the fact that it appeared to me to be a painfully contrived and synthetic. Rather than focusing on the plot, characters, or themes, it appeared to me as though the filmmakers chose to put more effort to conform to what has been deemed aesthetically "indie". Through this, the characters as well as the situations in which they are placed are placed on the back burner.
It almost feels incorrect to me to refer to the individuals in the movie as characters. Granted, I walked into the movie knowing it was about a dysfunctional family. With that comes a certain amount of expectations. But the characters in it are hardly even two-dimensional. Their sole purpose is to advance the movie from one "comedic" situation to another. They have no other reason to exist.
We could talk about the importance of having situations not directly relating to the story of the movie to make the characters more vital, but I'd be willing to overlook it if the individuals were interesting. I did not find one of them to be of the slightest bit interest to me. The grandfather curses? Wow, that would have been funny twenty (maybe even more) years ago, but it is now a tired old joke. A failed motivational speaker who preaches that there is a definite and sure way to success coming to terms with his own imperfections? Brilliant! A suicidal man forced to leave a hospital because his insurance won't pay for him to stay there? I'll be honest, I do like the social commentary. But the sequences that follow (specifically involving the fact that the family does not use any glass at the dinner table) treat the audience as though we are as stupid as the poorly written villainous beauty pagent organizers.
The beauty pagent is just one of the many hackneyed situations that these "characters" find themselves poorly thrown into. When I say thrown into, I mean that the writers have abandoned logic in hopes of providing the audience with laughs. Of course, this aspect of "believablity"can be overlooked so long as the omission provides the viewer with an intriguing and generally somewhat original situation (e.g. just about any Hitchcock movie).
Unfortunately, the situations in this movie are of a sort that are very similar to any audience memeber. Perhaps the most blatantly common film occurrences of the movie is when an elderly family member dies. But wait, the other family can't dispose of their departed in the accepted fashion. This situation, down to a run-in with the law, is taken directly from National Lampoon's Vacation.
I have actually heard a person describe this movie as National Lampoon's Vacation for people who think they're too smart for National Lampoon's Vacation. I agree with that statement.
It did, like any movie, have certain somewhat redemptive qualities. Alan Arkin will never fail to be amusing at some point. That is a given. Also, Paul Dano gave a surprisingly good performance in spite of the limitations the role he had provided him with. I look forward to seeing him in other movies in the future. Probably the best part of the movie was when the characters need to rush towards the Volkswagen bus, which, I'm not going to lie, was one of the best sequences I've seen in a while (but not nearly enough to redeem the movie).
Of course, I'm not going to end this post in a positive way. I could point out so many more issues I had with the movie, but I'm just going to refer to the amount "Oh, he's gay" jokes that this movie had. Is it too much to ask for a character that is "stagnantly" gay?