Little Miss Sunshine

Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            Knowing how much I enjoy quirky comedies with a message, a few of my friends recommended that I check out Little Miss Sunshine.  When I didnít see it in the theaters, they pointed out all the award the movie was nominated for and won, telling me that I was missing out.  The problem was that I wasnít a bit fan of Greg Kinnear and since he had a starring role in the film, I was hard-pressed to see it.  But, as time wore on and I heard more glowing reviews of the film, I decided that Little Miss Sunshine might be a movie worth renting.

            It all begins when Frank Ginsberg (Steve Carell) decides that it is time to end his life.  A genius whose homosexual relationship ends abruptly, Frank decides to give up on life.  However, his attempt at suicide fails and he finds himself being moved in with his sister Sheryl Hoover (Toni Colette) and her crazy family. 

            Frank is not a fan of Sherylís husband Richard (Greg Kinnear), a positive re-enforcement self-proclaimed guru trying to peddle his wares to a larger scale audience.  He is baffled by his nephew, Dwayne (Paul Dano), a young man with an intense dislike of his family who has taken the desire to become an Air Force test pilot to the extreme, observing a vow of silence until he achieves his goal.  Richardís father, Edwin (Alan Arkin) is an over-the-top eccentric WWII veteran who has been living with the Hoover family since he was kicked out of his retirement home for using and selling illegal drugs.  The only bright spot in the whole situation is Olive (Abigail Breslin) whose only dream in life is to become Miss America.

            When Olive learns that she has become a finalist in the ďLittle Miss SunshineĒ beauty pageant in Redondo Beach, California, it seems that she is on the path to realizing her dream.  That is, until the family realizes that they have to find a way to get to Redondo Beach from Albuquerque, New Mexico in two days.  Having sunk all of their money in Richardís positive re-enforcement business, the family doesnít have enough money to take a plane to California, but they do have an old, dilapidated Volkswagon van.  Thus, they all pile up in the van, headed off on a misadventure of a lifetime.

            Little Miss Sunshine is hysterical.  This is not a slapstick comedy, but a thinking manís comedy, many of the laughs coming from sarcastic remarks.  Alan Arkin steals the movie, offering up quite a few of the comedic moments with his acerbic attitude, foul mouth and overactive libido.  Abigail Breslin is absolutely adorable.  Paul Dano is annoying at first, but he really grows on you by the end of the film.  Greg Kinnear is as sleazy as ever and Iím beginning to think that this is the only role he really knows how to play.  His character only becomes somewhat likeable toward the end of the film and even then, itís too little too late.  The biggest surprise of the film comes from Steve Carell, who is amazing in this film with just the right mix of melancholy, sarcastic humor and incredulity at the situation he has unintentionally put himself in and how much he has grown to enjoy it.

            There are a couple of lessons to be learned from this film.  First, never be afraid of who you are.  Each character, except Edwin who already knows this lesson, comes to grips with the person they are and, although at first they try to hide it out of shame, they eventually grow to love themselves.  Greg Kinnearís character learns that in order to succeed in life, you canít be afraid of how others perceive you.  Instead, you must love yourself and others will eventually jump on the bandwagon.  If not, they arenít worth knowing.    Another lesson to be learned from Little Miss Sunshine is that when life hands you a setback, you must continue on, accepting the challenge thrown your way and moving forward toward your goals.  Nothing worthwhile has ever been achieved without a few hurdles to overcome.

            I should have listened to my friends when this movie hit the theaters in 2006.  Little Miss Sunshine is an intelligently written laugh-a-minute film that I would recommend to anyone looking for a funny feel good type of movie.


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