One of the characters in Little Miss Sunshineadroitly sums up this movie for any potential viewers: "welcome to hell." What is billed as a charming and quirky comedy is actually a painful exercise in "let's make fun of the dysfunctional family." If you get the impression I didn't much like the picture, you may be right.
This one hour and 43 minute study in misery and seat squirming is the story of a truly sad family and their odyssey to make it to the youngest daughter's "Little Miss Sunshine" beauty pageant. "Sunshine" is actually reminiscent of funnier movies, like National Lampoon's Vacation,even down to certain plot points that I won't give away here. But while the latter actually amused, Little Miss Sunshine simply made me want to hide my face in my hands and pray for the end credits.
The Good: Not much actually. The best part of the movie is the young pageant contestant's talent performance, as choreographed by her grandfather. That amused for about 2 minutes. Of course, I had to figure out a way to deal with the remaining 11 minutes.
Dustin Hoffmancalled young newcomer Abigail Breslin's work the best child actress performance he ever saw. While this young girl is reasonably engaging, she can't make up for this sad excuse for a story/script. Personally, I think Dustin should have seen, say, Tatum O'Neal's tour de force in Paper Moon. Alan Arkinwon an Oscar for his part as the heroin snorting, foul-mouthed grandfather. I can't figure out why, unless the award was more for his body of work than for this particular part. Greg Kinnearis appropriately smarmy as the motivational expert who can't get anyone motivated. However, he's effective enough that one can't really like -- or root for -- his character. Toni Colletteis the one relatively normal member of this family, and her role is essentially straight man to the rest of them. She's wasted in the part; anyone with any acting ability could have played it. Steve Carrell,who's hot as a firecracker as a comedy performer these days, is maybe the most effective actor in this piece, with his understated delivery of the gay, suicidal, Proust expert along for the ride. On the other hand, all he's got to do is look sad and play it straight.
The Bad: I get enough dysfunctional unhappiness in my own life; why would I consider it entertainment to watch it on a movie screen? as alluded to above, some of the movie was deriviative of other road movies. While I understood the theme that the filmmakers were going for [family, for better or worse], I was expectng some humor, and what I got was almost painful to watch.
The Bottom Line: One Flick. This picture would have gotten zero flicks, but the talent competition sequence did amuse, however briefly. Why so many others have raved about this waste of time is beyond me.