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Little Miss Sunshine (R)

Release Date: July 26th, 2006 by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
The Cast: Abigail Breslin, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin, Toni Collette, Steve Carell.
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

BASIC PREMISE: A dysfunctional family tries to get along during a road-trip to a beauty pageant for their young daughter, Olive (Breslin).

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Unlike the recent RV, Little Miss Sunshine takes the family road-trip genre seriously while it still manages to be laugh-out-loud funny. From start to finish, the script is full of witty humor, satirical and dark comedy as well as memorable lines. Even a running gag involving the family’s poorly-functioning Volkswagen never gets old. Fortunately and refreshingly, screenwriter Michael Arndt does not include any toilet humor which seems to be popular in comedies these days. Each member of the family has their unique quality that makes them stand out. There’s Richard (Kinnear), a stubborn writer who tries to sell to a publisher his nine step program of turning losers into winners. Dwayne (Dano), his son, dreams of becoming a fighter pilot but refuses to communicate verbally with anyone. Richard’s wife, Sheryl, played by the very likable Toni Collette has less quirks, but at least seems like a real mother who wants her 7 year-old daughter, Olive, to compete in the Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. The two liveliest members of the family include the grandpa (Arkin) who always has something shocking or perverse to say and Frank (Carell), Sheryl’s homosexual brother who suffers from a failed attempt to commit suicide. The family’s adventure has a few hilarious surprises along way, but what truly makes Little Miss Sunshine thoroughly engaging are the complex, oddly likable characters and superb performances from everyone, especially Abigail Breslin as Olive. Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris keep the pace moving along briskly without a single scene that drags.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Families must stick together no matter what. Little Miss Sunshine reiterates this point in subtle and unsubtle ways but without being remotely preachy or over-sentimental. The third act includes a very satisfying, uplifting scene which brings the entire family together in an unexpectedly poignant way.



IN A NUTSHELL: A real winner! Funny, poignant and thoroughly refreshing. A bright ray of sunshine! The first sleeper hit of the summer.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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