One blogger's take on movies, television shows, books, and music -- the good, the bad, and the bottom line

Sunday, April 15, 2007

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.


Blogger rhodeymark1 said...

Nice - a Reynolds link. I jumped over because I thought the movie sucked as well, and I'm glad to see someone express it. Arkin won for THAT?

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didnt like it either..your words echo my thoughts as I wondered how anyone could love such a movie. predicable as it was and the wasted talent of the actors makes me wonder if an entire different moovie is not on th cutting room floor somewhere.

It looked good, nice camera work and good locations, very nice techincal work in the film

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Armondo said...

Films like this shouldn't surprise anyone. This is America and the film is representative of Hollywood's idea of the nation as a whole--dysfunctional and sleazy.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your review make me wonder if this movie isn't an Ink Blot Test for people that come from dysfunctional families.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a member of a dysfunctional family (and these days, who isn't?), I truly enjoyed it. Even though some parts hit close to home/made me squirm in my seat, it had an extremely powerful positive message and allowed me to see the world in a different, more positive way. One of my favorite films of the year.

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also liked the movie and came over here from Instapundit to see what it was I overlooked.

All I can say is that people should become movie critics to guide others, not as a form of self-therapy.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved this film, it was a pleasure to watch and parts were hilarious. It was the only film I saw that brought me to laugh out loud while viewing, esp. each time they had to start up again in the van. It was my favorite,I cannot imagine anyone not enjoying this but we all have a different sense of humor. All families are dysfunctional, and this was very cathartic aside from fun

10:56 AM  
Anonymous AlwaysWrite said...

I didn't like the movie, but for a slightly different reason. I think the actors represented a fairly normal family rather than a dysfunctional one. The part I didn't like was the putdown of child beauty or talent contests. I don't like those either, but if people want to put their children through that, that's their business. Parents do odd things to their kids: put them in sports, dance lessons, failed schools, etc. One of my favorite sayings is "In spite of all the parents help, kids tend to turn out OK anyway".

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Movie Buff in KY said...

I clicked over from Instapundit because I was pleasantly surprised to see that someone else didn't like the movie (I was starting to think I was the only one). I rented it because of the rave reviews, even from critics such as Michael Medved (I believe it was one of his top 5 of 2006), so I figured why not. I watched it in two sittings, because...well...the longer it went on, the more painful it got. The performances were good, but why Alan Arkin won the Oscar over better performances remains one of those Academy Award "mysteries" I ponder when I'm bored. I know...I could have stopped LMS midway and returned it to Netflix, but I'll give it this: it left me curious enough to want to see how it all ended. By the time it was over, I could at least say Well, I've seen it. Now how did this get a best picture nod over United 93 and The Illusionist? Thanks for letting me know I wasn't alone in not liking it.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous tyree said...

The film was beyond bad and I couldn’t see why it was nominated for anything. The talent competition looked more like a science fiction film than anything in E.T. My wife worked at a children’s dance studio in California where all of my children took classes and performed in competitions. In our experience the children who did the wholesome, family numbers got last place while the 12 year olds who mimicked MTV got the gold. I can more easily believe in alien life forms than a Redondo Beach children’s talent show where a child’s offensive dance routine would ever be scene as objectionable by the judges. Hollywood types may think that they are being held back by the Puritans, but in my experience it is the wholesome, family oriented work that is denigrated and given “Third Place”. Little Miss Sunshine gets no stars from me, it represented a “reality” that I could not find believable.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Not a great movie, but funny and moving way beyond standard Hollywood fare -- compared to most of which it, if anything, celebrates the value of family, and portrays a father who strives heroically with little worldly acclaim to show for it.

The most annoying flaw is that, in mindless obeisance to Hollywood cliche, Olive's act must be tarted up to shock the bourgeoisie. That's a shame (and, I gather from the above comment, unrealistic). But it's still way above average.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife and I kept looking at each other and wondering why anyone would think this is a good movie. A comedy, it is not.

Then I figured it out how it got such good press and award nominations: it has a fair amount of gay angst in it, and gay anything sells in Hollywood. Just Hollywood politics.

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, in your review of the actors, you left out the guy - Paul Dano - who played the teenage boy. He had teenage boy nailed, and probably gave the best performance in the movie.

But this is an ensemble cast movie, not a vehicle for this or that actor.

You missed the metaphor that ties this movie together - the defective VW Bus that has to be started by everyone pushing & jumping aboard. Sure, it's simple & obvious, but it works. And the fact that you didn't see it tells me that you didn't really see this movie, you just watched it.

This is a good, solid three star movie. Best movie? Probably not - the Oscar often goes to the wrong movie, though I can't say what the right movie might have been this year.

But one can watch this movie more than once, with pleasure. It's a little simplistic, suffers from sitcom shorthand in connection with its peripheral characters, and occasionally is just plain over the top. Still, it's funny, and nonjudgmental except about the one thing worth being judgmental about, namely, "beauty" pageants for children.

Try it again, but this time ride the bus.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did not like the movie but I did not think it was the worst movie ever. It was kind of funny in a "I wonder if this can get any worse" sort of way. It is odd how the critics loved it so much though.

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The title "Little Miss Sunshine" is a misnomer. It should have been "Little Miss Mud Puddle."

Family comedy? Yuk! Whatever happened to Truth in Advertising? Nobody was laughing when I saw it in a midtown Manhattan theater. More like stunned silence.

Since I was tricked into seeing this movie by reviews posted, I suspect, by studio flacks, I now check the least favorable reviews to find out what a movie is really about.

No wonder Hollyweird is losing their audience.

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Little Miss Sunshine" and "Sideways" were the same movie: marketed as hilarious non-mainstream comedies, they were instead sad tales of pathetic losers on a road trip, with exactly two big laughs, and two solid but overrated supporting performances (Arkin, and Madsen).

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I turned it off about 30 minutes into it. I'm usually pretty lax about movies and willing to watch them all the way through, but this one was clearly going to focus on the eccentric characters and they just weren't interesting enough. I do think the promoters did a poor job promoting the film. What I expected from the trailers and what I saw on the DVD were two very different things, but perhaps it just wasn't my brand of humor.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to add that this movie is a victim of its own hype. If I had just seen the thing without all of the unwarranted praise, I might have enjoyed it more. But I kept looking for "Best Movie of the Year", and it was nowhere to be found. Which of course had me in a critical state of mind.

And look at how the thing was marketed: "Take a hilarious ride with the Hoovers, one of the most endearingly fractured families in comedy history..... the family piles into their rusted-out VW bus to rally behind her with riotously funny results."

It makes it sound like a Chevy Chase 'Vacation' movie. Can you imagine how many parents were tricked into bringing kids to see this? I can't decide which my pre-teen would find more hilarious, gay suicide or geriatric herion abuse.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Joel said...

You guys are just not clued in.

If the movie, be it "I heart huckabee", "Children of Men", or "Little Miss Sunshine", among hundreds of others, touts the proper leftist ideology and/or denigrates the proper conservative family oriented ideology, it is hailed as a historic event in film making.

There are grey areas of course, such as an ostensibly conservative movie but one which shows a minority group such as Blacks or Jews victorious over an oppressive white society.

The Reason Alan Arkin won the Oscar was because his character "was real", he saw through all the BS society makes everyone do to toe the line so in his post 60's he decides to take up heroine and other libertine lifestyle choices "to live a little" or non-conform.

Basically any grandpa that will teach his granddaughter to dance like a stripper can win an oscar in hollywood.

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It worked as a movie - jeez. The gag about running to get in the VW is the way I grew up. It was entertaining. Someone needs to take the piss out of the pedo-pageants - this film did that, and rather well.

The same people who hate this film also seem to hate "Sideways." Enough said.

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't like it either, but not because of any political stance or the fact that it tried to make dysfunctional chic. I didn't like because I found it formulaic, predictable. You could see nearly every seen coming (because as the author noted they just re-hashed other road movies) and it offered nothing new.

For me, it violated the cardinal rule of movies. Don't bore me. This one bored me.

4:38 PM  
Blogger michael edelman said...

I think the commenter who said he'd have enjoyed it more if it hadn't been so over-hyped hit it on the nose. This is a nice ensemble comedy- not great, just good. Sure, some scenes went on too long, and some were more than a bit forced, but that's almost nitpicking. The actors each did a fine job, and it was a pleasure to see a child play a realistic child, not a 40 year old divorcee trapped in a precocious 7 year old's body for once. Put aside the hype and the undeserved Oscar, and you have a nice little film.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Evan M. Thomas said...

I think the reviewer missed the point. As is, LMS was a good character flic that tried to go deeper than the aforementioned "National Lampoon" series.

Here's a hint, don't watch this movie expecting a comedy. Its a character journey. Everything these poor saps want out of life has to be destroyed. Then we get to see what they do with it. If they can find some meaning in their lives outside of their aims.

5:11 PM  
Blogger in_the_middle said...

I knew someone from Instapundit would liken this movie to liberal (gasp!) sensibilities. Please, get a f*cking hobby.

I think it was a terrific movie, but I get that not everyone would like it. That is the true beauty of art: Subjectivity.

Now, let's talk about The Departed. A horribly violent movie with little to show for plot. And an Oscar for the man who really deserved one so many other times but got one for this out of guilt that he might not make it in time for another.

I'm sure only the Right Wingers like it, because it really does display rightist ideology. Somewhere, I'm sure.

7:53 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I hated this movie. I was embarrassed at the pedophile references and did not think that a young girl acting like a stripper was comedy.

My 3-year old daughter once said "Look Daddy, I'm shaking my butt." I flipped out on her mother and pulled her out of the dancing school she was at. Have I become an old fuddy-duddy like my Dad? You are damn right I have. Sorry, but I don't think sexualizing young girls is funny or forward-thinking.

Those types of scenes in the movie are all I remember in the end. Some of the other stuff was funny, yeas, but the other nonsense ruined the entire movie for me.

7:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The child who was the inspiration for this movie died in an auto accident recently. I believe I read in nj.com.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

I didn't hate this movie as much as many here, but I didn't like it. It pretended to be more than it was. It should have been an amusing road movie but for some reason, the director thought it a serious message movie.

Sorry, there was no message here. At least not a thought provoking one.

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I commented to my wife as we watched it that it reminded me of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf".

6:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having been on a road trip where a member of our travelling party died on the road, I laughed and cried my way through this entire film. I suppose if you haven't eperienced something in your life that so closely paralelled the film you might not like it. I did, and I do.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Toby said...

I'm not a fan either. It makes the same mistake that you often see in Spielberg movies: The writer and director think the audience is stupid, so there's a scene where the BIG POINT is given to you word for word. In this case, it was the conversation on the dock between Steve Carrell and the son, where they talk about suffering makes us who we are, forms our personalities, yada yada yada. Boring, trite and condescending.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

There just aren't words in the English language sufficient to convey how much I despised this movie. It should be a no-brainer that a movie shouldn't saturate the viewer with personalities that they can't stand being in the same room with. Only sheer force of will and morbid curiosity could get me to sit through that parade of human ugliness.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My parents enjoyed the film so much, they bought the dvd. I have no idea why.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Came here from Insapundit... not really sure why he included this link on his blog. I'm not really a fan of the movie, but this review is ridiculous. You take any movie and you'll find people who thought it was the best thing since sliced bread and people who thought it was stinkier than a turd. So.. nothing to see here.. moving on

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The person who said sexualizing young girls isn't funny hit the nail on the head. I wasn't amused at all. A grandfather teaching his young granddaughter how to do a striptease to "SuperFreak" (a song basically about a hooker/groupie) wasn't funny at all. In fact it was just disturbing. I tolerated the very unfunny film until that point then I was just disgusted. (Did anyone find the guy in the leather jacket at the end clapping a little creepy?). Basically, the grandfather told his grandson to have sex w/as many women as possible, condoned heroin abuse, and taught his granddaughter how to be a stripper. It was sleazy garbage. Hollywood keeps trying to project this image of America on to us as if there still aren't decent people out there. I'm sick of it. I'm a avid film goer but I can no longer trust the label of "critically acclaimed".

9:54 PM  

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