Little Miss Sunshine (2006) – Film Review

Little Miss Sunshine

Starring Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carrell, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, and Alan Arkin

Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

IMDB Rating: 7.9

Review written by Rachel Geiger

Little Miss Sunshine is an extremely quirky movie about a family that’s so dysfunctional, you’ll feel so much better about your own family. This family has their issues and it’s hilarious to watch in this classic Oscar winning movie. The film is packed with an all-star cast and the story itself is enough to make you both laugh and cry.

Sheryl Hoover (Toni Collette) lives in New Mexico with her two children Olive and Dwayne, (Dano and Breslin) and her motivational speaker/life coach husband Richard. (Greg Kinnear) She finds herself overbooked after her gay brother attempts suicide (Steve Carrell) and Richard’s father (Alan Arkin) gets kicked out of his nursing home for smoking heroin, forcing him to stay at the house where he strikes up a close bond with her six-year-old daughter. Olive gets invited to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in California and the whole family is forced to take their RV to go on the trip. Along the journey, the family is forced to deal with tremendous amounts of setbacks which makes the film so awesome to watch.

This film is outrageously funny. One of the best parts of the movie is when the family is forced to jump out of the van and push it before they can get into the van. This shouldn’t be funny, but it is just watching these characters sprint as fast as they can as the van starts to speed away. The biggest moment of the film comes at the end which takes place at the pageant Olive is competing in. There’s some dark humor and also some dramatic moments, but if you can appreciate this type of humor, you’ll certainly enjoy the movie. The plot is so interesting, taking a normal girl that has no makeup, her hair isn’t done, has in her real teeth, pale, a little chubby, and throw her in with these overly sexualized little girls, plus throw in dysfunctional supporting characters, it makes for a hilarious outcome.

As is the case in most of the films I review, this one has acting that really makes the movie tick. Each character has their own background and little quirks that make them fascinating. However, the best performance is probably Alan Arkin, who won the Oscar for best supporting actor for his role. Throughout his time on screen, he constantly causes chaos with his foul mouth but his sweet side comes out around little Olive. In secret, he teaches Olive incredibly risqué moves to the song “Superfreak,” which she performs at the pageant. (Hence the hilarious last scene) Steve Carrell is surprisingly good in his role. Interesting fact, they originally wrote the role for Bill Murray or even Robin Williams, they wanted someone with more acting experience (Carrell was unknown at the time) but Carrell impressed. Even now, this role stands out as being one of his most unique and different roles. Abigail Breslin and Paul Dano are also impressive as the children. Paul Dano’s character Dwayne plans on joining the air force and has taken a vow of silence in preparation for it. Breslin was charming and showed her potential with the role of Olive. I love how oblivious she is and how hilarious she comes across without even trying to be funny.

This is the directing debut of husband and wife directing duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. They’ve only directed one other movie together since this one and I’d say this was easily the most acclaimed of the two. With that being said, I think they did a great job considering it was their first time out. They especially did a good job with filming all of the shots involving the Volkswagen Bus. Filming across New Mexico and California also made for beautiful scenery that was well showcased in the film.

Due to the quirky and awesome cast of characters, general acting, scenery, and the plot itself, this movie will keep you flat out laughing from beginning to end. It also balances drama and comedy extremely well which is rare. The best part about the film is that it doesn’t try too hard to be funny or serious, it just turns out to be due to how relatable and great the acting is. Definitely watch this one!

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