Thursday, August 17, 2006


A well-deserved hit, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’

Comedy is hard work but the perseverance of husband and wife filmmakers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris has paid off with “Little Miss Sunshine,” a fast growing hit deserving of every ticket buy. One part road tale and two parts dysfunctional family comedy, “Little Miss Sunshine” is as credibly bleak as it is funny. Sure, screenwriter Michael Arndt has created a gang of low-achieving nuts but their frequent setbacks make them completely approachable and a little bit lovable. Greg Kinnear’s smarmy personality is put to perfect use as Richard Hoover, a motivational speaker who preaches success but can’t get his own career in order. Toni Collette settles nicely into the role of Sheryl, the disheveled mom trying to keep her family together. Steve Carell is deadpan hilarious as Sheryl’s brother Frank, a depressed college professor unlucky at love and suicide. Alan Arkin adds extra sass as a grumpy grandpa and Paul Dano brings life to his role as a detached teen. But the film’s plot and spark revolves around young Abigail Breslin as Olive, the Hoover’s seven-year-old daughter intent on winning the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. The Hoover family's attempt to help Olive win her beloved contest is a nerd triumph.
No film taps into America’s celebrity-obsessed culture with the razor-sharp precision of “Little Miss Sunshine.” It’s as if there’s a little Hoover in all of us, no matter how much we may deny the comparisons.
For Dayton and Faris, who first showed their flair for comedy by directing numerous episodes of the hip Cable TV series “Mr. Show,” the gushing reaction to “Little Miss Sunshine” confirms that their instincts for what’s funny is on target.

“Little Miss Sunshine” premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Fox Searchlight will release it in theaters across America this summer.

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