In Albuquerque, Sheryl Hoover brings her suicidal brother Frank to the breast of her dysfunctional and emotionally bankrupted family. Frank is homosexual, an expert in Proust. He tried to commit suicide when he was rejected by his boyfriend and his great competitor became renowned and recognized as number one in the field of Proust. Sheryl's husband Richard is unsuccessfully trying to sell his self-help and self-improvement technique using nine steps to reach success, but he is actually a complete loser. Her son Dwayne has taken a vow of silence as a follower of Nietzsche and aims to be a jet pilot. Dwayne's grandfather Edwin was sent away from the institution for elders (Sunset Manor) and is addicted in heroin. When her seven-year-old daughter Olive has a chance to dispute the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in Redondo Beach, California, the whole family travels together in their old Volkswagen Type 2 (Kombi) in a funny journey of hope of winning the talent contest and to make a dream ...Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Originally written as an East Coast road trip movie from Maryland to Florida, it was shifted to a journey from New Mexico to California due to shooting issues. See more »
The inability to shift is usually not a symptom of a bad clutch. It is possible to shift without depressing the pedal, so having a bad clutch wouldn't make moving the shifter any more difficult. See more »
There are two kinds of people in this world, winners and losers.
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The DVD contains four alternate endings:
Alternate Ending # 1 had the family stop at a rest stop the next day as they're driving back home. Richard talks fondly about Grandpa, and then the family toasts to his memory. You actually can't hear the dialogue, since the only audio option is for the director's commentary on this ending. Basically, the filmmakers thought that it was too sappy (since it was too sunny during the scene) and so they stopped filming.
Alternate Ending #2 had the family handcuffed at the security office at the hotel. The security guard tells them that Olive is disqualified from the competition and that they are released, under the condition that they are banned from entering beauty pageants in California again. He releases the family members, and they start to walk out of the lobby. Sheryl places a crown on Richard's head, who in turn places it on Olive's head. As they exit the hotel, Richard asks "who wants ice cream?"
Alternate Ending #3 had Olive running out into the lobby of the hotel, acting as a lookout, as you can hear everyone else arguing off-screen about stealing the trophy. She signals that the coast is clear, and so the others run out of the hotel carrying the trophy (while Frank wears the crown).
Alternate Ending #4 is the same as #3, but it's extended. Title cards detail the family stealing the trophy from the room, running down the hall, running out of the hotel, running into the van, and driving off.
Most people have commented on the brilliance of the acting in this movie. I agree with all they said. Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear and Alan Arkin are as good as we would expect them to be. Add sensitive and characterful performances from Paul Dano & Steve Carell. Spotlight the amazing Abigail Breslin as a believable little girl trying to break into the Child Glamour Business through pageants like "Little Miss Sunshine." It was when I contrasted her less than movie-star appearance with all the adult-glam of the other lacquered and made-up girls that I realized the subliminal message here.
Olive's striptease is an honest (but disturbing) expose of what these pageants really are. It's only when Olive's family join her in making this into a game that we can begin cheering for her while being horrified by the hypocrisy of the whole pageant-thing.
A brilliant movie!
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