Little Miss Sunshine (2006) Poster

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The Best Film of 2006-it has aged extremely well.
CubsandCulture4 April 2022
I am still shocked that this film wasn't nominated for direction at the Oscars and that it lost best picture to the overwrought The Departed. This is film captures far more of life as lived in single scenes than most films capture in their entire runtime. It is not just the great script that has great comedic bits and utterly real characters. It's not just the pitch perfect cast. This is a great *visual* film as well because of the traveling scenes and the quirky design sense.

The direction is extremely tight. Whether it is how the opening dinner sequence delineates character and their relationships-via clothing and seating arrangements-economically or how they kept the interior of the van visually fresh the film is filled with splendid and meaningful images. I think the script and the acting are so good that people just didn't notice the visual niceties the film captures. There's even a couple of hard jokes to land-i.e. Porn in the trunk-that the directors managed to make work far better than the story beat does on the page.

I think the film's theme around the cruelty of the rat race and the insane pressure we put on ourselves because of "competition" land better in 2022. Maybe I am just getting older but Richard is a bit of an jerk who did need to learn to chill. I like that the film isn't anti-competition per se but encourages us to keep things in perspective.
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One Of The Best Movie "Gifts" I've Gotten This Year...
cchase26 July 2006
It is very rare to see a movie that can charm the hell out of an audience without the use of special effects, worn-out clichés and bombastic action set pieces these days. It's even more ridiculous to hope that you will see such a film for FREE. But that's exactly what happened to me tonight at a sneak preview of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE.

I "discovered" this movie right here at IMDb, having heard not a peep about it beforehand. By the time I finished watching the second trailer for the THIRD time, I was floored...and hooked. Luckily, the Bulletin Boards steered me toward the proper link to access sneak passes for tonight's showing, and all I can say is that it will not pain me one bit to pay for the privilege of seeing this gem a second time.

Assembling the best and most unlikeliest of ensemble casts you may probably see all year, SUNSHINE on the face of it is a relatively (pun intended) simple story. Little seven-year-old Olive (Abigail Breslin) has one wish in life: to be considered for the finals of the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant in Redondo Beach, CA. When her big chance comes at the most unexpected time, it's up to her unbelievably fractured family to pull themselves together and make it happen for her, no matter what it takes.

And what it takes is a sad, painful, tragic and yet unendingly hilarious trek in a barely operational VW bus from Albequerque, NM to the Pageant. And although getting there is only half the fun and family drama, you have got to see what happens to believe it when they finally arrive and Olive gets to "do her thing." The strong cast sounds not a single false note, and when the more touching moments arrive, they don't seem forced the way they would in most other big-budget behemoths, because these moments are truly earned. But WHAT a collection of characters this is. Greg Kinnear is letter-perfect as Olive's judgmental, failed motivational-speaker father; Steve Carell finds new shades of darkest despair and human comedy as her suicidal gay uncle, a leading Proust scholar; Paul Dano does amazing things with little more than facial expressions as Olive's older brother who's deep into Nietzche and a vow of absolute silence, and Alan Arkin, though he has played this kind of role with both hands tied behind his back and his eyes closed, still shines like a crazy diamond as her cantankerous and hedonistic grandfather.

And barely holding this motley crew together is Toni Collette, who amazes by playing a mother again and yet manages not to portray the role exactly the same way, (you might recall her Oscar-nominated turn as Haley Joel Osment's put-upon mom in THE SIXTH SENSE.) I'm not at all familiar with the work of the two directors, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, or the writer, Michael Arndt, but they have definitely raised the indie film bar with this effort. Not a single moment is wasted; not a single scene is in this film without having a reason for being there, and it's all character-driven. There's also nothing fluffy about it - commentary about everything from how twisted our pop culture can be, to how our drive for being #1 winners can blind us to all of the things that are the most important are all there under the bittersweet laughs and tears for the audience to discover.

I can't recommend this one highly enough. And I can't wait to see it again.
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More than a fresh ray of sunshine!
aharmas7 July 2006
Here is a film that lives up to the expectations of a very funny trailer. It's an oddball comedy, and it's dark, and it's funny, and it's touching, and it will charm the pants off many in the audience. Here is a simple story in which our lovely contestant and her family try to find their way to California so that she can prove to the world she is not a loser! The premise itself can lead to years of therapy for a family that should get a group rate in psychiatric care.

Expert editing and superb comedic performances from all the principals involved will have many overlook the fact that the plot line is a little too contrived at times. The set pieces will have the audience howling with laughter as we see different characters trying to overcome some pretty irreverent obstacles. The scene at the gas station contains moments of deep sadness and offbeat humor, something that Carrell pulls off wonderfully, and none will be able to look at the trunk of a car, some dubious literary material, and highway patrol the same way after seeing the infamous scene in the film.

The best is of course, saved for last, and by this time we are waiting for something outrageous which "Little Miss Sunshine" delivers unapologetically. A classic track will probably be recharged for a new generation, as the bonds of family precariously balance a moment that could be as tacky as they come.

"Sunshine" is one of the best things to come out of American cinema this year, an original film that relies on a script that understands the differences between generations in the same family. It doesn't explain why each character is as quirky as can be, and it doesn't build much background because it is not needed to make the film work. Kinnear, Colette, Abigail, Arkin, and Correll are a fine team and keep the film's feel fresh throughout the film. Here is a family that has no special qualities or powers, a family that will make us rejoice that creativity is still alive in Hollywood, a film that will provide us with plenty of much needed sunshine in an otherwise pretty dull summer.
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delivers in the most charmingly sweet, pure, honest, and innocent way
Monotreme022 December 2006
It would be unfair to limit the film to one adjective. But charming is the first one that comes to mind. I really don't know how they did it, but the screenwriter Michael Arndt and directing team Dayton/Faris (Jonathan and Valerie, that is) have managed to create a movie in which we are simply so connected to the characters it's frightening. This is a very quirky bunch, and while their traits can be found in everyone we know, they are certainly extremely weird and I certainly don't know any families who are quite as odd as the Hoovers. And yet, we forge such a strong bond with each and every one of them, right from the opening pre-title introduction sequence – probably the best character introduction sequence I've seen since Magnolia. These people are just so real! It's unbelievable just how three-dimensional these characters are. They remind me of The Squid and the Whale – another recent movie that comes to mind when I think of this type of character development – these are just normal, regular people, and the filmmakers developed them as such in the most in-depth, well thought-out and just ingenious way possible.

That brings me to the second adjective: Realism. If you've seen the film you know that some pretty wacky things go on in it, but in the end, these people are just plain real. They are real human beings – at least we the viewing audience come to believe. If they weren't so incredibly well thought out and detailed and rounded, we wouldn't forge such a strong bond with them. But fact of the matter is, the Hoovers have quickly become one of the most memorable cinematic families. Their traits. Their flaws. Their dreams and ambitions. Their dynamics, mannerisms, nuances. Every tiny little detail about these people is just so incredibly portrayed.

Obviously, it would be unfair to say that a comedy isn't funny. When Little Miss Sunshine gets funny, it's hilarious – we're talking pitch-black dark and very quirky comedy, but it works admirably, reaching sort of a peak in the infamous, hilarious and totally wacky traffic cop scene.

The acting is. Simply put, amazing. You won't see any Oscar moments here, no characters that have some particular traits that require various forms of "method acting" to perform. This is simply actors playing a bunch of people who they are clearly quite unlike, but playing them as if they are. The shining star is young Abigail Breslin, who out-acts pretty much all of her older cast-mates. How she can embody a completely other character at such a young age is completely beyond me – and she's been doing it since age 6! Dakota Fanning, watch out! Paul Dano, the other young actor, also delivers an amazing performance. Myself being fresh out of that period of my life, I can say that his portrayal of a frustrated teenager – specifically in the scene where he just explodes (those who have seen the movie will know what I'm talking about) is just so true and realistic. Arkin is brilliant as the old grandfather, who is at once quite annoying and vulgar and at once the most human of all the characters. The three adult leads also deliver wonderful, nuanced performances – Toni Colette, who has quite a streak of wonderful performances in various films, particularly impressed me.

But what makes the film so special is its message – and even more so, how it delivers it. Basically, the film's message can be summed up in one brilliant line delivered by Arkin's character, Grandpa Edwin: "A real loser is someone who's so afraid of not winning he doesn't even try." This is a family who see tragedy after failure after disappointment, and it's just so, so sad to see them so down, because we love them all and we know that they don't deserve it, despite all their flaws. Seriously, this movie is absolutely brutal to its characters. But ultimately, it's absolutely inspiring. Because despite disappointment after tragedy after blow to the stomach, this family just keeps their head up and say "so what; we'll find another way". Their determination and devotion despite all the obstacles in their way, and their ultimate removal from their anxieties and un-winding is simply and absolutely inspirational, and extremely heartwarming.

The flaw of many independent films that carry a message is that they insist upon themselves. Sometimes it works admirably – a recent example I can recall is The Fountain; it's undeniably pretentious, but by fulfilling its own expectations it works as a message film. Little Miss Sunshine delivers its message in simply the most incredibly, charmingly sweet, pure, honest, and innocent way you could ever imagine. It's just so… pure. And that's really the single most engaging and appealing aspect of what is already an amazing piece of work.
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a scathing black comedy that is also emotionally resonant, pro-family, and joy-inducing
imaginarytruths26 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I hate to admit it, but my primary interest in showing up for the screening was to see Steve Carell try his hand at a semi-serious role as the suicidal gay literature professor.

But it's not Steve Carell's film. It's a startling departure for him, a nuanced and heartfelt performance that's just as strong as his career-making turn in 40 Year Old Virgin. Likewise, this film does not in any way belong to Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, or Alan Arkin, all of whom are at the absolute top of their games and each of whom is allowed many moments within the ensemble structure to create a complex and compelling character. Hell, the film doesn't even belong to Paul Dano, who's just as good as his more experienced co-stars even though he doesn't have a single line of dialogue in the first 80% of the movie.

No, this film is owned wholly and entirely by a nine-year-old actress named Abigail Breslin. I think a lot of viewers might miss it because she's surrounded by enormously talented performers and is "golly gee whiz" "aw shucks" cute, but this performance is, all hyperbole aside, Oscarworthy. The entire film hangs on her emotional vulnerability and she is achingly real in every moment of joy, sorrow, confusion, desolation, and determination. The closest comparison I can think of is Amy Adams in Junebug. She's that good.

OK, I seem to be writing this review backwards. Let's see if I can pull together a plot description. The film is basically a dark comedy dysfunctional family road trip. It starts out resoundingly bleak. Richard (Kinnear) is a wannabe motivational speaker who in his desperate drive for excellence has become deeply alienated from his family. His wife Sheryl (Collette) tries to keep their family together but is so frustrated with her husband and nerve- shredded by the stresses of her home that it seems like she will cave in at any moment. Also in the home is Steve's elderly father, who is perpetually profane and angry and copes with the disappointments of his life by snorting heroin. Richard and Sheryl are raising two children, the cute but seemingly unremarkable Olive (Breslin) and the perpetually silent, glum, and angry Dwayne (Dano), who is marking off the days until he can go join the Air Force and escape this familial hellhole. Into this enclave of joy and bliss enters Sheryl's brother Frank, who has just been released from the hospital after trying to slit his wrists due to his unrequited love for one of his grad students. When Sheryl tells her brother that she's glad he's alive, he tonelessly responds "that makes one of us."

These are the characters. I know they must seem like pathetic indie stereotypes, but over the course of the film each of them is revealed as a multi-dimensional person struggling miserably but nobly to make the best of a life that is not working out the way they had hoped. And despite the gloomy set-up, this twisted thing becomes the most life-affirming film I've seen since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

It's not a perfect film by any means. At times it feels a little contrived, as if several years of trauma were compressed into two days. And while the climax undeniably represents the most ruthless skewering of beauty pageants in the history of cinema, skewering beauty pageants doesn't in itself really qualify as daring satire.

Nonetheless, the film packs an emotional wallop that's going to take a lot of people by surprise.

And I haven't even mentioned that it happens to be the funniest movie of the year.
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Love these characters
SnoopyStyle31 December 2013
Sheryl Hoover (Toni Collette) is trying hold this crazy family together. Her brother Frank Ginsberg (Steve Carell) is just released after his suicide attempt. Her husband Richard (Greg Kinnear) is a bad motivational speaker who is always talking about winning except he's a loser himself. Her son Dwayne (Paul Dano) is tired of his family, and has vow to be silent. Grandpa Hoover (Alan Arkin) was kicked out of his nursing home for misbehaving. Finally daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) is so excited about getting into the Little Miss Sunshine pageant.

The reason this movie works is that I love these characters. I love everybody except for the dad. They are just so weirdly likable. They are the essence of an underdog story. I love this family, and it's not only for the cute little girl. I even love the VW van.
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Plenty of Nuts in This Tree
Hitchcoc22 May 2012
This is such an offbeat piece of work I don't know where to start. I think the Miss Sunshine part tells us that no matter what a mess life may seem, there is a ray of sunshine. This is a story about a group of the most diverse and often dysfunctional characters ever put on a screen. The point of the story is to get to a beauty/talent pageant across country. The positive energy put forth by little Abigail Breslin is astonishing. We know from the start that the little waif with her big glasses isn't going to outshine all those little beauty queens with their overbearing mothers and thousands of dollars for dental work and hair styling. But the movie is about the journey and the love that develops along the way. When push comes to shove it is the "weird" who seem the most normal and the Normal who seem "weird." Alan Arkin is great in his brief appearance. The profane munching that goes on among the characters is precious. Underlying their schizophrenic rants is true love.
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A little sweet sweetness…Little Miss Sunshine
jaredmobarak20 August 2006
Keeping up with the recent buzz-worthy films coming out of Sundance the past couple years, Little Miss Sunshine is a gem of a movie. After loving crowd favorites Primer (2004) and Hustle and Flow (2005), I wasn't quite sure if the hat trick would be made. Sunshine seemed to have the cast, and direction (the debut of husband/wife team Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, who have helmed some of my favorite music videos including the Smashing Pumpkins' Tonight, Tonight and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Otherside), but the big question would be if it had the laughs to sustain the quirky indie comedy from not being overwrought and boring. While the film definitely has a couple moments where I was about to be lost, everything ends up happening for a reason; emotions are on a roller coaster ride and the lows always come out with meaning and momentum for the highs. Do yourself a favor and see this sweet, subtle at times and gut-bustingly hilarious at others, perfectly pitched ensemble piece.

The co-directors set us up for what is to come in a very nicely designed opening sequence by going character to character, showing us each person in a small vignette of their personalities. This is the quintessential messed-up family with good intentions. Mom and Dad are bickering on how to tell their young daughter about her uncle's attempted suicide, while he sits and stares in a strange melancholy next to the mute, troubled son, (on vow of silence in honor of nihilistic mind Nietzsche), while grandpa spews profanities about the lack of dinner variety. I mean this is the epitome of every family function I've ever been privy to. There is so much a viewer can relate to in each member, allowing for a certain amount of compassion for the views of all involved and seeing that each really does want the best for one another, even if they have a messed up way of showing it.

Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette are wonderful as the patriarchs, proving as always that they are probably two of the most under-appreciated actors working today. Very rarely do you get to see them in a starring vehicle, and even though this is an ensemble through and through, they definitely carry it as the driving force. Alan Arkin does his kooky, quasi-angry, sarcastic yelling that he is known for, kind of his role from Edward Scissorhands but r-rated and un- pc. Everything he has done comes to a surprising result at the eponymous beauty pageant for the biggest laughs of the movie, really great stuff subverting the grotesque surrealism surrounding any pageant of this kind. Paul Dano is great as the troubled teen, trying to find a place in the world for himself, and coming to grips with the need for struggle in order to grow as a person, and Abigail Breslin is phenomenal as the happiest girl alive. Once she finds out she has won her regional on default, (those primary school children and their diet pills), she is on cloud nine as the family makes the road trip all for her. She has the acting range of a pro and actually does the Dakota Fanning, but better, as she can act while still being a young child and not an adult in a child's body. Her emotional reactions are spot-on and she has remarkable presence and a self-effacing nature that allows her to be who she is and not be ashamed about it, which is the main purpose of Olive Hoover.

The real revelation to take from the antics on screen is a career-role for funnyman Steve Carrell. I've always liked his naïve, teddy-bear persona used to successfully in the Daily Show, The Office, and as the only funny part of Anchorman. Here however, he shows that he has the acting chops to not be pigeonholed and typecast in the over-the-top, lug roles his peer Will Ferrell will never be able to breakout of. Carrell has genuine talent and his suicidal, top Proust scholar in America, uncle is the shining moment of the film. He maintains the dejected quality throughout; even when doing something for the family, doing good, he is always a beaten man. That kind of character is what is needed for all his sharp, dry sarcastic retorts thrown about. He barely outshines the prop of the year, though, the family's yellow VW van. You will not see better prop-gags as the van takes a licking and keeps on ticking although the tick is faint and slowly fading away.

Little Miss Sunshine lives up to the strong buzz that surrounds it. It is heartwarming and funny at every turn. There are some dark moments, though, as there are in life. This film is a slice of reality, heightened just the right amount, for all to enjoy. While definitely in the vein of films such as I Heart Huckabees, Thumbsucker, and any Wes Anderson film—it wears its indie cred on its sleeve—it is still accessible and hopefully with the drawing power of Carrell will garner an audience that would not otherwise see it.
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A highly enjoyable ensemble road movie - funny stuff
MatthewInSydney22 June 2006
I saw Little Miss Sunshine a week ago at the Sydney Film Festival, and the audience I saw it with loved it. There was a lot of laughter going on - especially at the hilarious ending. And amidst the jokes it deals smartly with it's theme of the value of chasing your dreams and being one of life's 'winners' versus valuing what you already have. Or put another way, it celebrates the joys of losing in a culture obsessed with winning.

I'm not going to go into detail about the plot, as the film hasn't been widely released yet. There are no huge plots twists, but I think you'll have more fun with this film if you don't know exactly where it's going.

As the film started I wasn't so sure about it. All the characters (apart from Toni Colette's perhaps) seemed to be written as being amusingly quirky in a predictable indie-comedy way. But as the movie went on it became easier to warm to them. I think it helped that the actors appeared to be having genuine fun together. These guys don't feel like much of a family at first, and I wondered a couple of times why these people would bother sticking together, but as things progress the strengths of this particular family unit become obvious. And just as all comedies should, it gets funnier as it goes on. I was pleased to see the script stayed true to it's messages all the way to the end, and didn't turn preachy or maudlin. The whole cast work excellently together, and I hope this film has all the success it deserves once it's released.
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Hilarious! I loved this fun, but slightly dark comedy
ArizWldcat10 February 2006
We were happy to have had the chance to see this at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. I loved the cast: Greg Kinear, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin, Paul Dano and Steve Carrell were ALL marvelous as the dysfunctional family. Little Miss Sunshine refers to a pageant to be held in California (the movie never states where the family lives, but most of the road scenes were definitely in the Phoenix, Arizona area. (added 8/2/06: I know now that the movie is set in New Mexico, for those of you who are interested in that sort of thing!)

The story follows little Olive, a normal child, who by a fluke wins her way into the finals of the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. The family decides they must accompany her in their old VW bus, so a road trip ensues.

The final third of the movie, which deals with the actual pageant, is by far the funniest part of the film. It illustrates, with great hilarity, the frightening people who are involved in child pageants. You can't help rooting for Olive, who is refreshingly normal amongst the frighteningly plastic other contestants.

(After discovering that I was in the (opposite of loved it) category on IMDb, I changed my subject line, because this was one of the best movies I've seen all year!! I LOVED IT)

This is NOT a movie for children. After reading through some other user comments, I have to say I'm dismayed by the amount of people complaining about the F word. This movie is rated R, mostly because of its frequent use of the F word, along with some drug use. If you do 5 minutes of research before you go to a movie, you should educate yourself as to WHY a movie is rated the way it is. If you are offended by swearing, then, if you go to a movie that is rated R because of language, be prepared to be offended! Okay, I'm off the soapbox. This is NOT a movie for children.
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Probably the best comedy of 2006.
Pavel-89 December 2006
Comedies about families usually come in one of two genres. Often featuring dysfunctional families (are those two words redundant?), they are either broad and goofy ("Cheaper by the Dozen") or dark and abstruse ("The Royal Tenenbaums"). Driving its Volkswagon bus down the middle of these two extremes is "Little Miss Sunshine", a comedy both inclusive and exclusive, one that some will get entirely, while others will whiff on to the same degree.

The title stems from a beauty pageant in which seven-year old Olive (Abigail Breslin of "Signs") competes. For a good portion of the film, the contest serves as a MacGuffin of sorts, putting an already odd mix of family members on the road in bizarre situations that call Vegas Vacation to mind.

But "Sunshine" is far more than the slapstick of "Vacation". It mixes humor both broad and subtle humor into a strange brew of comedy, poignancy, lessons, and life. Huge and deep issues are addressed, topics like death, dreams, and failure. Yet somehow the movie doesn't feel heavy. You'll walk out with a smile on your face because the movie sensibly touches on these issues, realizing that stuff happens and life continues, that the handling of adversity is often what defines people. And above all, there is family, which you're stuck with, for better and worse.

"Sunshine" may not grab you right away, which is part of its power. It burns slowly, introducing the family members to the viewing outsiders through observation, then putting the viewers in the bus with them as they enter a foreign world. All this is done without lapsing into melodrama and without losing steam as the movie chugs toward the climactic final scene, continuously building momentum along the way, before promptly getting out on top.

Rather crude at times, "Sunshine" is not a movie for children, nor is it for anyone who takes life or movies too seriously. But if you excel at finding the askance humor in life and film, then you will relish this offbeat look at a collection of family dynamics perhaps only slightly stranger than most, although definitely more extreme.

Bottom Line: One of the year's best, and likely its best comedy. 8 of 10.
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A black comedy with a Little Big Heart
jluis198420 December 2006
The world of Independent film-making is definitely a tough one, as often the difficulties of getting a good budget or a good cast can become a difficult test to even the best directors. For that and many other reasons, it's always good to see a good independent films receiving the praise and recognition they deserve, proving that the support of a big studio is not necessary to make a product of high quality. "Little Miss Sunshine" certainly has been luckier than most Indies in terms of budget and cast, but it still is a modest black comedy that takes advantage of its own limitations and relaying only in great acting and a lot of heart, makes more than the hundreds of comedies the big studios make in a year.

The plot is the story of the Hoover family and their trip from New Mexico to California, in order to take their little daughter, Olvie (Abigail Breslin), to the finals of the Little Miss Sunshine Beauty Pageant. However, the Hoovers are not a very functional family, the father, Richard (Greg Kinnear) is a neurotic motivational speaker obsessed with winning, so immersed on his book that is barely in contact with his wife, Sheryl (Toni Collette), and always is arguing with his own father (Alan Arkin). Sheryl is no less neurotic than her husband, and her troubles increases as her brother Frank (Steve Carell), a literature professor, recently attempted to commit suicide and is now stuck at the Hoovers' place. Dwayne (Paul Dano), Sheryl's teenager son, is the mute (by his own choice) witness of this debacle, as he tries to live enough to get out of the house and make his dream come true: to be a jet fighter pilot. The road trip will prove to be a test not only to Olive, but for the rest of the family.

"Little Miss Sunshine" is the very first work by writer Michael Arndt, and for the most part he makes an amazing job in setting up what's basically a character driven road movie. Arndt's script may not be very original (and that's probably the film's biggest problem), but he uses the conventions of his genre in a very clever way, mainly by focusing on his different characters and letting them and their own personal stories to carry the main plot. This approach to the character development makes it so realistic that one can't help but feel identified with at least one of the Hoovers. Sure, it's an overtly exaggerated portrait of that dysfunctional yet lovable family we all have, but this delicious black comedy it's done with such charm and heart that it actually works, and even makes the story feel fresh despite not having a really original plot.

This movie not only marks Arndt's debut as a writer, it's also the first feature film by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, a team of music directors famed for their work with rock bands across the 90s. It's kind of surprising that, unlike most former music video directors, their transition to film comes with a really subtle film that focuses on the plot and the characters instead of the visuals. However, this doesn't mean that visually the film is unpleasing, on the contrary, it features an excellent cinematography (Tim Suhrstedt) coupled with a subtle score by Mychael Danna and Devotchka that work perfectly to set the tone and mood of Arndt's little story. The subtle approach taken by the Dayton-Faris tandem succeeds in giving life to this charming story by letting the actors to completely own their characters and be the most important part of the film.

"Little Miss Sunshine"'s magic would not be possible without one of the best assembled cast in years. The entire group of actors that play the Hoover family really show big chemistry together and deliver a believable portrait of this dysfunctional family. Starting with Greg Kinnear, who makes the best of a character that easily could had been a two-dimensional cartoon. Toni Collette really shines in her role, and is one of the film's best surprises. The experienced Alan Arkin tackles with dignity and funny enthusiasm on the role of the grandfather, delivering another of his excellent performances. Steve Carell proves that he is more than a mere comedian in a complicated, yet essential role for the film. Abigail Breslin is literally the film's heart, bringing her spark to the film in a wonderful performance. Comparatively, Paul Dano comes up as the weakest link, but that has more to do with the high quality of his cast-mates, as his work is still effective and worth of praise on its own.

Many have criticized the way "Little Miss Sunshine" remains too close to the road movie formula and its use of overused clichés, however I find that to be unfairly harsh, as well as misdirected, as it's not really the plot what matters in the end, it's how the characters react to the situations that this trip presents them. Exaggerated or not, the characterizations are really believable, and that's the element that makes the film to stand out among other similar films. The characters here do have a soul, and as the family gather the necessary strength to push the old VW van, they gather the courage to overcome their inner personal demons. While probably predictable, few movies of this optimistic feel good style could carry its plot keeping the same energy from beginning to end.

"Little Miss Sunshine" is the little big surprise of 2006, a black comedy that attempted to do a lot with very little, and that for the most part succeeded in its attempt. The young talent here shows a lot of promise, and hopefully will keep delivering works as good as this one in the future. "Little Miss Sunshine" may not be the most original film of the world, but this little jewel can easily be considered among the best of the year. 8/10
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Outstanding!! An absolutely brilliant satirical dark comedy
Robert_duder17 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I had heard a little about Little Miss Sunshine and it intrigued me enough to want to see it so I finally caught it on DVD and I was blown away by it's creative edge, it's unique blend of dark humor and painful human emotion. The film is quite simply brilliant!! Anyone who truly loves a very real and powerful story about families that will make you laugh as much as it will make you cry must see this film. What makes the film even more impressive is the outstanding ensemble cast that captures every moment of comedy in such a twisted manner that you almost feel guilt for finding the absolute hilarity in their mixed up and disturbed road trip. On top of that co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are long time partners who have pioneered direction in music videos and documentaries but never truly a feature film and yet they smash one out of the park with this incredible story.

In essence everyone in this film is a "supporting actor" because no one character is more important than the other or more featured. They all have this goal and this way of supporting each other's brilliant performances and ironically the one actor to be nominated for a Golden Globe, I thought, was one of the weaker characters and roles. Greg Kinnear is Richard in another brilliant turn as a character actor for Kinnear. Richard is pig headed, stubborn, well meaning but very demeaning at the same time. He doesn't realize the importance of his family and yet he strives and struggles to do the best by them. This is hands down his best role since "As Good As It Gets" and he still shows he can pull off a powerful performance. Impressive as well is the young Paul Dano who plays emotionally tortured and self inflicted teenager Dwayne who has taken a vow of silence until he completes his life goal of joining the air force and flying. Dano captures the tortured teen perfectly and considering he has fewer lines than any other character he has to rely on his body language and talent to carry the role and he does that wonderfully. He also puts forth some of the really emotional parts in the film and I think he should be recognized for his brilliant part. Steve Carell....STEVE CARELL...well as many truly great comedians do (ie: Robin Williams, Will Smith, Jim Carey etc.) Carell finds the role that might show the world he is far more than a slapstick comedian and he really can't hold a serious role. His role is the best in this film hands down. It's more of a subtle performance as Frank, the suicidal, brilliant and gay brother-in-law/brother who is forced to go on the trip because he is on suicide watch. He immediately bonds with the tortured soul of Dwayne, plays provocateur to the overly emotional Richard and ultimately teaches each member of the family something. This is hands down an amazing feat for Carell who should get an Academy Award nomination for this part!! He never breaks the drama to show off a funny side except to be ironic and satirical the way the movie needs to be. Multi-Oscar and Emmy nominated actor Alan Arkin plays the rough and rugged Grandpa who is soft at the core and loves his family dearly but has many regrets about his life. His crazy antics, foul mouth and love for women makes him absolutely hilarious and an outstanding addition to the cast. Arkin is spectacular. And there is young Abigail Breslin who already has an impressive resume of performances including her debut which was in M. Night Shyamalan's Signs where she did an outstanding job. She further proves her young acting ability by playing the baby of the family, Olive whose desire more than anything else in the world is to be in the Little Miss Sunshine Beauty Pageant. She is the soul of the family in many ways and she is the reason of the trip and ultimately she is the one that brings them all together in the hilarious, unbelievable climax. She does a terrific job!! Finally Toni Collette plays the disenchanted mother Sheryl and I don't mean to downplay her performance but I don't think the character is as strong as some of the others and therefore her performance suffers but she got the Golden Globe nod so what do I know?? As the head of the family desperately trying to hold everyone together and bring some sense of normality to their lives she seems almost like she's falling apart but we don't really get to look too much into that.

So very few films could pull off being so touching and dark and yet make you howl with laughter so loudly. It is such an incredible road trip film that does without special effects, unrealistic, silly premise or anything else but relies on an incredible cast, a real story, and something and someones that anyone could relate to. It's truly the ultimate story of a wacky family that just loves each other and sticks together. If nothing else the climax of the film when Olive performs at the pageant just might become an instant classic moment in film history and will have you laughing to tears. Everyone and anyone could enjoy this movie and is sure to be an instant classic!! 10/10
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Watch this movie!
scarletminded21 July 2006
It's funny...go see it!

I'm really picky about films and this actually was original and and well acted. Unique.

Just go see it when it comes out. A few people I saw it with said it might be one of the best movies of the year. I completely agree with them. At first it seemed like the movie wasn't going to be funny at all...I mean can a mute and a suicidal man make a comedy? Yes they can!

It got funnier as it went along. I laughed so much I got tears in my eyes during the last dance scene.

The whole cast was great, Paul Dano, Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell playing really serious at first...when I went into the movie, I thought it was a drama at first...Steve Carell was what brought me to the film in the first place...and Alan Arkin is funny in anything he does...I don't want to say much about this film...I want people to go to it and be surprised...
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She's kickin' ass... that's what she's doing.
bombersflyup21 September 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Little Miss Sunshine is an evoking offbeat family comedy drama.

It includes bad characterization, sub-par dialogue and odd scenes, but I still consider it a great film, with stuff that holds true and brings about joy. Kinnear and adorable little Breslin star, along with quality performances by Collette and Arkin.
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A Joy To Behold
CinemaClown3 March 2021
Conjuring endless joy & heartwarming feels by bringing together an array of flawed characters, piling them all up in a Volkswagen van and sending them on a road trip, Little Miss Sunshine is the story of a dysfunctional family rediscovering themselves & each other over the course of their journey as they learn the importance of being together through the thick n thin and reforge their relationships.

Directed by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris in what's their directorial debut, this is a sensibly written tragicomedy that right away acknowledges the flaws of the family members yet provides ample room for all of them to help each other grow & evolve. Each one is intriguing in their own ways, and their interactions have an organic feel to it as well, which only makes the drama all the more effective & entertaining.

The tone & treatment may be lighthearted but the story & characters packs enough dramatic weight & depth respectively and the filmmakers make sure both individual & collective on-screen efforts move things in the same direction, and the balance is sustained from start to finish. Performances are top-notch from everyone, including the young Abigail Breslin. And the climax brings the ride full circle with an amusing, uplifting & cathartic sequence.

Overall, Little Miss Sunshine is a wonderful amalgamation of skilful direction, smart writing & heartfelt performances that promises a pleasant time to all its viewers and delivers it in spades. An impressive & promising debut for its directing duo, it is one hell of a roller-coaster ride that treats its characters' imperfections with compassion & understanding, and is effortlessly elevated by honest inputs from its committed & talented cast. Absolutely worth your time & money.
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tedg15 September 2006
Its a simple strategy. Introduce us to some damaged folks, folks that seem way beyond what we would accept. Then spend some time with them in such a way that we get to know them. Then at the end, compare them to "ordinary" people so as to trick us into grounding ourselves in the "weirdos." Along the way, give us quirky vignettes, alternately endearing and humorous.

This complies in gentle ways, following the template so closely it might have been designed by a committee. This is where successful independent films are now, I guess. Sad.

In normal circumstances, I'd just relax and go along for the ride, like I did for, say "Miss Congeniality." But there's a nagging reminder that something here isn't fair.

The denouement of the story — the place where we actually see the rest of the world — is a kiddie beauty pageant. This is the place where all the talk about dividing the world into winners and losers is embossed on us. What we see are horrible little people, absolutely revolting freaks. Its a truly damning thing. And it works as intended. We immediately realize where our own lives are centered — or where we would like them to be.

But look closer. What we are revolted about is the cult of little-girl-cuteness. It isn't as deep a cult in the US as it is in Japan, St Petersberg or Thailand. But it is in movies here and essentially everywhere. We are charmed by girls. Its one of the most reliable parts of the cinematic vocabulary. I saw this film paired with "Forbidden Games," which is a truly wonderful experience.

So here we are given a show that celebrates the cuteness of little girls and we are repulsed. But what have we been watching for over an hour? A family disaster that revolves around the cuteness of our little girl. Its a relentless cuteness show, which we allow in part because we know our actress has been made less "pretty" by over-sized glasses (another movie shortcut) and a prosthetic belly. But its cute that we are sold.

So in the damning at the end, I damned myself and felt dirty coming out. Movies do this a lot, especially teen movies that poke fun at teen humor and then have all the jokes dependent on that same humor. More clever ones do it with heavier subjects. "American Psycho."

But this is just too much. The writers give us an escape hatch. We can pretend it isn't cuteness and innocent charm, but a more prurient interest we are damning. The contestants we see do try to look sexy and our girl's routine is targeted at blowing that up. So we can pretend it is sex that is the reversal. But be honest. It isn't.

Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
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Simply perfect
rasvag5311 August 2006
Do yourself a huge favor and go and see this film and then tell your friends about it. It has no special effects!!! No HUGE stars (though Kinnear and Arkin are famous and perfectly cast) This film has just great characters, unusual but perfectly understandable circumstances,fantastic dialog, wonderful actors,stunning cinematography, effortless direction and seamless editing.This film was very well received by the audience I sat with. I laughed,I cried and laughed until I cried. I heard that this film only cost three million dollars to just goes to show that tens of millions need not be spent to get a treasure. Go see it and be thoroughly entertained. This is one good old-fashioned movie for everyone over 13 (if you preempt the grandfather's language, which is really part of his character). Hope it gets some nominations!!!
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Anything that makes fun of beauty pageants is alright by me
Ruskington24 October 2021
A quirky original comedy that works it's way towards a genuinely brilliant finale. Strong cast, sharp humour and good pacing contribute to a modern classic.
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onepotato222 January 2007

I'm stunned.

Every once in a while a movie comes along that is jaw-droppingly horrible to the point that it leaves your mouth hanging open. I lack sufficient terms to express how trite and repellent I find this simpering movie. It's an exhausted "human spirit" movie so cloying that it needs to be taken off life support. From the first time I saw the TV commercial which featured the hackneyed ruse of getting the whole family in one vehicle for the duration of a movie, I suspected the script would have difficulty making that premise believable. It certainly fails there, but that's the least of its problems. But still, the wealth of good reviews drew me to buy a ticket. My initial reservations were right. This script is an inept piece of garbage long before you evaluate it on moral grounds, where it collapses spectacularly.

The family here is a mix of characters so drippy and dense that they never realize their dumpy, uncoordinated, bespectacled daughter isn't the Junior Miss type. It takes them exactly one pageant (following a needless cross country trip) to figure that out. The same family doesn't realize that a heroin-snorting, horndog grandfather shouldn't be the one teaching their adolescent daughter her beauty pageant dance number. Why not go all the way and include a "funny scene" of grampa molesting her? The setup is practically there; a scene so distasteful feels like it's just off-screen (or on the cutting room floor) in this wholly objectionable movie.

Long after a ridiculously unbelievable "chance meeting" in a gas station, long after paper-deep villains have been thrown at the screen, long after the annoying Murphy's Law plot line is exhausted, comes the most sick, saccharine, crappy moment in all of film history which involves a family attempting to redeem their seven-year old daughters failed, inappropriate talent routine (a strip tease) by joining her on stage. Sexualizing a seven year old girl without her being developmentally able to understand it... mmm, that's comedy gold. This "edgy material" is about as palatable as a cup of bleach.

I'm not one to look for messages but here we've got something like "Let's all support each other as we swim up the cr*p river of life!"

I'm sure it's supporters think I've missed the point and that the humor is just dark. It's not dark. Making a dark comedy is an art. This comedy has no edge in it's delivery. It's filmed straight. It's acted and presented ineptly. It's about as edgy as a smutty episode of Seventh Heaven. This is the rotten family-values homily to end them all. Drawing big saccharine payoffs to support a family values theme also places this squarely in mainstream whitebread entertainment.

It makes perfect sense that idiotic Hollywood would nominate this tripe for a bunch of Oscars, but I can't believe I respect people who like this atrocity. The Oscars have become so gratingly self-impressed, and the nominees so limp, that all you can really do anymore is root against films you don't want to have any further influence on the culture. I am so glad it lost the Best Picture award last night; Today it starts a long descent to the bottom of time's toilet, exactly where it belongs, where it will be forgotten.
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U can touch this!
lee_eisenberg30 December 2006
I have seen many movies about dysfunctional families, but rarely if ever have I seen one as good or as funny as "Little Miss Sunshine". It not only shows the fictional Hoover family's messed-up existence, but shows how daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) is the least damaged; maybe it's because she's the youngest, so there's hope for her.

Anyway, the family. Dad Richard (Greg Kinnear) hosts pep talks where he reminds people of the nine steps to becoming a winner (because, as he puts it, winners know that they're going to win); none of his steps really seem to amount to anything in his own home, especially with the advice that he gives Olive. Mom Sheryl (Toni Collette) tries to be a homemaker, but is clearly unsatisfied with life. Son Dwayne (Paul Dano) has taken a vow of silence in hopes of becoming a jet pilot. Grandpa (Alan Arkin) prides himself on his perverted - but quite hilarious - lifestyle. Uncle Frank (Steve Carell) recently tried to commit suicide and seems to have a slight form of Asperger's Syndrome, making it hard for him to read social cues. And daughter Olive, she's participating in a beauty contest.

When they have to drive to Redondo Beach for the beauty pageant, they have an experience that they never could have imagined. Each one gets to see just how messed up s/he is. Even though they all seem weird, we can't help but admire each of them. But the beauty pageant itself is the highlight. It affirms that there is definitely hope for Olive, and not the kind that dad suggested! Anyway, I can't recommend this movie enough. It's one that you just gotta see.
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Like A Ray of Sunlight
Chrysanthepop24 June 2008
'Little Miss Sunshine' tells a fascinating and hilarious story of a dysfunctional family that includes a cigarette-addicted mother Sheryl (Toni Collette), her suicidal brother Frank (Steve Carell), her voluntarily mute son Dwayne (Paul Dano), her obsessed-with-winning husband Richard(Greg Kinnear), his eccentric father Edwin (Alan Arkin) and her 7 year old daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin). I usually enjoy movies and shows about dysfunctional families, perhaps because my family's that way and it is this dysfunctional quality that makes them more fun for me. Directors Dayton and Faris do a good job as they stick to the main story. 'Little Miss Sunshine' can also be watched as a fun road movie where we are presented with some beautiful landscapes and some of the dialogues during the characters' journey are of laugh out loud quality and yet it keeps the authenticity of the relationships and situations intact.

The film consists of a delightful ensemble cast. Toni Collette, as the mother and wife who tries to keep the family together is amazing. Alan Arkin is brilliant as the father who doesn't give a damn. Greg Kinnear too is superb as the judgemental moron and he's great in displaying his character's vulnerability. Steve Carell is excellent, especially in showing Frank's transformation and his dialogue delivery is impeccable. Paul Dano holds his own. And, Abigail Breslin is the surprise package. This little girl is breathtaking. The scene where she has the last conversation with her grandfather and breaks down because of her fear of losing the pageant was very moving and of course there's the climax shot.

About this particular shot, many have labelled it as child pornography and this is an ignorant statement. That scene was not meant to be pornographic in any way. It was supposed to be hilarious and it got me rolling on the floor laughing (not literally but you get the idea). The importance of that scene was that it was a punch in the stomach to the parents and all those associated with the children's beauty pageant. We are shown little girl's (as young as ages 3) with heavy makeup, wearing these revealing outfits, doing these provocative moves on stage (this was one horrifying sequence)...all in the name of talent, self esteem and whatever. Olive's act stresses on the hypocrisy of this ridicule and the young actress does a fine job.

On the technical front, the cinematography is good and the soundtrack is brilliant. But, it is the characters and their relationship that makes 'Little Miss Sunshine' a treat. It starts off on a gloomy note where all the characters, except Olive, are more or less depressed but as the film proceeds the layers unfold and as the story is told. Not a single moment is wasted on irrelevant trivia. By the end, the experience is very positive, like a ray of sunlight entering the lives of these characters.
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Misanthropic road trip with dysfunctional family substitutes derision for wit
herbqedi23 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Everyone I know and trust loved this movie and told me they howled with laughter. I simply do NOT get it. If you loved Borat and Napoleon Dynamite, you'll also love Little Miss Sunshine -- I suppose because they are both misanthropic comedies about stupid people. But even though I liked neither I will say that both had far better sight gags and funny albeit stupid lines than Little Miss Sunshine. Me, I really don't get the raves at all considering I think this is one of the 50 worst excuses for a movie I have ever seen.

I don't find stupid people doing stupid things especially funny. I find hip pot-shots at easy targets that have been the targets of other hip comedies in the past even less funny. This movie is devoid of the delicious irony, politically savvy subtext, witty lines, or wry observations that would make a satire satirical. A wasted Alan Arkin whose physical vibrancy belies his character's supposedly frail physical condition is embarrassing to watch as a male version of Sophia of the Golden Girls who then dies in much the same way as Imogene Coca in Vacation. The ensuing problems of what to do with the body also are more crass and derisive than funny. Greg Kinnear plays the father as a cross between Bert Convy's character in Semi-Tough and Harrison Ford's character in The Mosquito Coast -- an obsessed and self-destructive self-help guru. What a novel idea, showing a self-help guru who cannot help himself, much less others, but cannot see it. That's all the humor allowed his character with no funny lines or development or delicious irony to make him interesting. The fact that Kinnear is such a good actor that he keeps struggling to find humor makes it all the more tedious. Steve Correll is making a different movie than everyone else, playing his gay, suicidal brother character absolutely straight (pun intended). I'm not a fan, but he's very good and is the only character that doesn't give the viewer the impression that he knows he's playing an object-of-scorn and derision. Toni Colette and the girl playing Olive do salvage a few funny moments at the Beauty Contest itself. But, by then, it was too late for me to care about any of the characters.

It must be a generational thing. I am a 50-year old male who knows what I find funny and this certainly was not it!
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The story of a young girl who wants to be in a beauty pageant.
boredhousewife-15 July 2006
I went to a screening of this film at Sundance earlier this year, and this is what I wrote about it immediately following:

This was a little less indie, cast-wise, but was jarringly real in a way that Hollywood rarely fosters. The story is of a limply-functional family, whose good leg is dysfunctional, and of the way that their love for each other is solid, somewhere underneath the varying shades of crazy. This film. Oh, this film! I have never laughed harder, and at such true-to-life comedy--nothing silly or goofy or forced or fake about the lines. It felt more like watching a documentary (minus all the familiar faces) and every time the laughter became almost unbearable, a little dash of agony or melancholic sadness was thrown in, and spawned aching tears. I sigh still, thinking of how completely in control of my insides that cast, that writer, that director all were. They owned my ass, and I will love them forever for it.

I can't wait to see it again. Do NOT miss it.
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Makes you Think!
davidlmitchellbsc13 January 2007
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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