Little Miss Sunshine (USA; 101 min.)

directed by: Jonathan Dayton; Valerie Faris
starring: Greg Kinnear; Steve Carrell; Toni Collette
Little Miss Sunshine
Beth Caldwell says: "This film did an excellent job by bringing together a broad range of comedic talent. The film was by most standards a formulaic American summer comedy. But, that's OK! Because as long as the jokes are funny and the jokes themselves are creative, I'm happy. They used a lot of physical comedy - especially with the Abigail Breslin, who played Olive, the delightful, genius, 7yr old daughter in the film. Steve Carell is fabulous, as always. Alan Arkin's performance was flawless. In some places the script or acting weakened but NEVER NEVER did his performance falter. "
Michael says: "Husband and wife directing team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have extensive directorial experience in music videos and commercials. Their first feature film, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, is a triumphant marrying of two staples of both mainstream Hollywood and indies; the road movie and the dysfunctional family comedy. The two things that most amaze me about LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is how deftly the film avoids the expected or the cliché (kudos to first-time feature screenwriter Michael Andt) and how funny it is. Add to that the strong ensemble cast, and the directors’ abilities with strong visuals and you’ve got a winning film that deserves the summer hype that it’s receiving.

"LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE introduces us to a family fraying around the edges. Patriarch Richard (Greg Kinnear is perfectly cast, but Richard is the least developed of the characters) has had one great idea in his life: the 9 Steps to Winning (or something like that) and he is milking it for all it’s worth. His wife, Sheryl (the luminous Toni Collette) keeps things moving in the family trying to hide the cracks without coming undone herself. Grandpa (fueled by Alan Arkin’s hilarious abrasiveness) is a cantankerous heroin addict. Sheryl’s brother Frank (Steve Carrell, whose acting talents match his comedic ones) is gay and depressed, moving in with the family after attempting suicide. Teen-aged son Dwayne (L.I.E.’S Paul Dano giving a strong performance) has taken a vow of silence until he is accepted into flight school to fulfill his dream of becoming an air force pilot. Finally there’s Olive (newcomer Abigail Breslin) who’s hard-work lands her a spot in the Little Miss Sunshine national beauty contest. It is this contest that gets the entire family into a bright yellow Volkswagen bus to drive one weekend from Albuquerque to Southern Californis.

"The overall structure of the film followed a fairly conventional framework, but it is to Andt’s credit that he rarely chose the expected path. Dayton and Faris make terrific visual choices, framing scenes in clever ways and using one particular recurring image to maximum effect. They avoid the use of montages set to pop music, but their insertion of the soaring instrumental passage from Sufjan Steven’s Chicago made my heart sing. This is a must-see for anyone looking for a well-made, laugh-out-loud comedy. 4 cats"

Barbara says: "If you are having a bad day, go see this film. It is one of my favorites this year and I the cast will be on my award nominations.

"It is funny, thought provoking and made me think more about family than the beauty pageant business at all."