"Little Miss Sunshine"
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.
Written by Michael Arndt.
Starring Abigail Breslin, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette and Steve
Release Year: 2006
Review Date: 8/2/06
Judging from the reaction of Sundance
earlier this year and the hundreds of people that have seen the film
in advance screenings all over the country since, I have to join
them in universal applause: you've got to be crazy to not at
least REALLY like "Little Miss Sunshine" as the best dramedy of the
The setup: a 7-year-old girl named
Olive (Abigail Breslin) learns that--even though she was the
second-place finisher of the regional "Little Miss Sunshine" beauty
pageant in Albuquerque, NM--she has won a chance to compete in the
national competition in Redondo Beach, CA against 11 other kid
beauties from around the country. So, her extremely
dysfunctional family unit--including Dad (Greg Kinnear), a
motivational speaker, Mom (Toni Collette), a high-wire ball of
stress, Mom's suicidal gay brother Frank (Steve Carell), Dad's
father (Alan Arkin) and Olive's non-speaking, fuck-the-world brother
Dwayne (Paul Dano)--all hop in the beat-up minibus and drive to
Redondo for a road trip of epic proportions!
At my standing-room only freebie last night,
everyone howled literally from start to finish. The best
comedic bits are so great, but the fact that there are so many make
this one of the better comedies in quite some time. Lots of
laughter cascades, as well...certainly, the last 15 minutes of the
movie might be the best, but I can't tell you how many times people
were applauding during the film, the shit was so funny. And
because I had heard from many others how good the film was, I was
surprised "Little Miss Sunshine" delivered on so many levels.
The hype almost can't match how good the flick is.
There are many laugh highlights (I'm
waffling between Grandpa's advice to Dwayne--"Don't just fuck one
girl, fuck a LOT of women"--or the first time the family has to run
to jump into the suddenly-stalled minibus, or the delivery of bad
news by a doctor followed by "LINDA!!", or the CHiPs stop with the
magazines or...jeez, there might be a dozen such moments), but the
bits of drama around many moments in the film are well handled by
music video/commercial directors Jonathan Dayton and Valeris Faris.
It helps to have a cast as strong as this one; I still think that
Dano's work (as the mute Nietzsche follower) might be the best of
the bunch here, but everyone is great from start to finish.
And, we even get a little bit of horror
thrown in--the actual beauty pageant is a spectacle of horrific
proportions, the idea (certainly copied from something in real life)
that 6- and 7-year-olds would have a contest that includes a
swimsuit competition, a talent contest and little kids posing in big
hair and makeup for the cameras scared everyone in the room during
my showing, which is what makes the Olive inclusion so damned funny.
Sure, people will compare her talent performance to the hilarious
end sequence from
Dynamite", but this update takes a little song-and-dance and
injects it with an energy that you have to see to believe. Has
Rick James's "Superfreak" ever been so funny?
Many of you have already seen this one, but
if you haven't, catch "Little Miss Sunshine" stat! We may have
a new #1 for the year...
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard