Aug 272006

Little_Miss_Sunshine.jpgA family determined to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant take a cross-country trip in their VW bus.

Directed by
Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Abigail Breslin, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Stan Grossman, Beth Grant, Justin Shilton

Lay and I went to see this movie Saturday night. Lay was working this weekend, so we had to make it a late show. This fantastic little movie is a complete short story, picking up at the addition of Steve Carell’s character to the crazy family headed by his sister (played by Collette) and her husband (played perfectly by Kinnear as a frustrated self-help presenter).

The family includes the quirky and somewhat overweight 8 year old, a by-choice speechless and frustrated 15 year old, and a drug sniffing angry grandpa (Arkin). Arkin steals every scene he’s in. The movie plays out like a typical “odd-group-thrown-into-a-small-area-and-must-overcome-together” situation, with a dilapidated VW bus as the key obstacle. But it’s the little moments of subtle humor that bring out the smiles in the audience at every step of the line. Carell has a 5 minute sarcasm bit, and you will never forget his style of running. The humor is never forced, the dialog seems very realistic, the sentimentality is never over the top nor yawn producing, and the finish was not only unexpected, but the most hilarious thing I’ve seen all year.

From the moment Alan Arkin appears on screen you realize immediately you’re in the presence of master. Arkin is, as some of my younger clients say, “off the chain.” Surprisingly enough, Abigail Breslin (who plays Olive)is up to the task and the scenes with these two are priceless. Both could easily be nominated as supporting actors and in a just world they would! While there many moments of hilarity, the movie is also a look into the culture of narcissism, where everyone involved is too busy with the “me, me, me” mindset of our hyper individualistic world to actually see what’s going on in the present moment. This situation leads to both high comedy and moments of poignancy. Highly recommended.

Everything about this film seemed to fit together; from the music choice, to the pacing, to the subtle placement of scenery and odd cinematography shots; the acting; the dialog; to the storyline, with its set up, pitfalls, and timely finish. To conclude, I would say this film is perfect movie-going entertainment without trying to say too much and be anything more than it is.

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