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Little Miss Sunshine

Genre: Comedy
Rated: R
Directed by
: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin
Released by: Fox Searchlight

In Short: The Oscar race begins with this bitingly funny, emotionally wrenching tale of a messed-up family crammed into a yellow VW Van on a comical road trip to a little girl’s beauty pageant.

The Little VW Van that Could
Losers Are Winners in the Year’s First Oscar Contender
By Jenny Peters

Take a bitingly funny and truthful script, add in deft direction and a stellar cast, and the resulting film—“Little Miss Sunshine”—emerges as the year’s first bona fide contender for the Best Picture Oscar.

This serio-comic gem follows the adventures of the Hoover family as they pile into a raggedy, old yellow VW van and head from Albuquerque, N.M., to Redondo Beach, Calif., so that 9-year-old Olive (Abigail Breslin, in an inspired performance) can compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant.

There’s Richard (Greg Kinnear), the loser dad who can’t seem to get his power of positive thinking scheme off the ground; Grandpa (Alan Arkin), his dad, who spends his retirement snorting coke and teaching Olive a very special dance routine; Sheryl (Toni Collette), the mom who does her best to keep the family surviving; Dwayne (Paul Dano), the teenager who has taken a vow of silence; and Frank (Steve Carrell), a gay Proust scholar whose recent suicide attempt hasn’t quite worked out.

As this motley family careens across the Southwest, life just seems to be against them, one and all. Mixing moments of real pathos with gut-wrenchingly funny scenes, the film sets a tone that is clever yet real, sometimes pathetic, usually ironic, often sad, and all together completely engaging. It’s no wonder that the film was the big hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It does what movies rarely do, letting us get inside a family’s worst and best moments with a believability that touches the heart and the funny bone at the same time.

Both the husband-and-wife directing team, the first-time screenwriter (Michael Arndt) and every rider of that yellow van deserve Oscar nods. If someone is left out, it will be a crime.

Oh, and if the penultimate scene of “Little Miss Sunshine” doesn’t make you laugh so hard you cry, then let’s face it, you’re taking little girl beauty pageants way too seriously, sister.


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