Little Miss Sunshine: A VW Bus Full of Laughs
by David Hartwell
August 20, 2006
When you take away the super-star actors with $20 million price tags on their necks, big-budget special effects, and studios who's only concern is the return on investment, you get down to what movies should be all about: a good story. And the independently driven Little Miss Sunshine is just that: it's a good story. Contrary to common misconception, a movie can make you roll on the floor laughing and be entirely serious at the same time, and Little Miss Sunshine proves this in almost every scene.
The movie features an entire family (with no particular family member sticking out in importance) who are all in this thing together. This thing I speak of is an 800-mile road trip to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in California. This kind of trip would be tolerable at best with a family comprised of a failed motivational speaker of a dad (Kinear), a troubled smoking mother (Collette), a foul-mouthed grandpa with a drug problem (Arkin), a post-suicidal former Proust scholar gay uncle (Carrell), a Nietzsche-following people-hating silent brother (Dano), and an over-eager beauty pageant following little girl (Breslin), but an old VW bus with a broken clutch puts the trip way over the top.
Through the various misadventures that can befall a family with such obvious foibles, dysfunction, and surprisingly, heart, Little Miss Sunshine brings more than just belly laughs to the unexpectedly small audience. It had just about everything you could want in a movie. It moved at an almost perfect comedic pace, the characters were rich (not in money), and their was very good chemistry in the cast. Also, despite my admiration for Steve Carrell, I was worried that his character was going to be overplayed (much like Will Ferrell usually is), but fortunately everyone in the cast did a stellar job. Though it was not a light-hearted comedy (it dealt with issues like death, attempted suicide, unrequited love, and financial struggle), the movie did make me feel at ease and it allows you to feel as if you're push-starting that old yellow VW Bus right next to the other family members.
The movie in its entirety is a good depiction (actually more of a critique) on life. The movie looks at the concept of a "winner" and a "loser," the frailty and importance of family, adversities that get in the way of personal dreams, and that life shouldn't have to be one big beauty pageant after another.
The film's "R" rating comes from language and drug use and a very brief glimpse of the cover of some porn magazines. I would definitely recommend it for most members of a family that are mature enough to handle a mildly darker (but no less funny) comedy.
Little Miss Sunshine has been my favorite movie of the summer, if not the entire year. Even though it is still only running in select theaters, I urge the movie going public to make a very strong attempt to get to the theaters and see Little Miss Sunshine.
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