[from August 19, 2006]
I didn't really like this one at first. The first 20-30 minutes plays like dozens of Quirky Indie Films that I've seen and am getting kind of bored with. The whole setup just seemed so contrivedly "offbeat" and I found myself rolling my eyes at some of it.
But this is definitely one that grows on you. The real magic of the film naturally comes from Little Miss Sunshine herself, Olive (played with an adorable lack of "little girl" guile by Abigail Breslin). At the beginning of the film, we learn that she was the runner-up in her local Little Miss Sunshine pageant, but that the winner (for some reason I can't recall) was unable to continue her reign. That means that Olive is the winner and has the chance to go to the national Little Miss Sunshine pageant in California. After a good deal of arguing, it is decided that the whole family will go with her. What follows is a hilarious ... you know, I hate to call it a "road trip" story, because that sounds so generic and sells it short.
The characters are fairly predictably quirky, but their respective storylines and relationships are truly interesting. And after the first 20-30 minutes, when the movie gets all of the "Look! I'm an indie film!" out of its system, it is hysterically funny. And it gets more and more funny as it goes along, until an absolutely absurd climax. I will never hear "Super Freak" the same way again. :)
And, as usual, Steve Carell is love.