December 28th, 2006
I’ve been having a hard time reviewing this movie because I know a lot of people like it more than I do. When that happens I wonder if I’m missing something.
I watched it again last night and now I’m pretty sure I got it all, but I still have a big sticking point. I just don’t see what’s so funny about the little girl performing a stripper dance at the beauty contest.
She performs that routine because it was taught to her by her reprobate grandfather (Alan Arkin), a heroin-snorting pornography addict. An obnoxious elder who doesn’t give a shit about anything, he dies before he has to deal with the consequences.
His lifestyle may be a workable stance for an oldster (and I’m taking notes), but he shouldn’t have used the little girl like that. She’s an innocent who loved her grandfather and he exposed her to ridicule for his own amusement. Not funny.
At least this hopelessly dysfunctional family rallies around the little girl, but is that the point of the movie? It’s not enough.
I did like the movie up until the distasteful ending. Here’s the family pushing their VW bus. The setup is that VW buses will run without a clutch if only you can get them going. This is a very funny ongoing gag.
The acting is good. I especially like Toni Collette (About a Boy, The Dead Girl) as the mom who holds this family together. And the little girl (Abigail Breslin) is great.
I have a problem with the character of the teenage son (Paul Dano). Based on his dyed black hair and his contemptuous attitude, and the fact that he hates his family and has sworn a vow of silence, he seems to be your basic angst-ridden punk-rock teenager from hell. But this movie would have us believe that his fervent desire is to become a fighter pilot. I don’t think so!
Little Miss Sunshine is worth seeing, but with reservations. Although it is often very funny, it tries too hard to touch every base. It is as if it was written by a committee of scriptwriters, every one of whom got to put in their favourite character. It has too many characters, and they are too strictly drawn to be believable; their quirks don’t overlap.
This movie comes dangerously close to those National Lampoon road movies starring Chevy Chase, especially when the family steals the grandfather’s body from the morgue. Lots of running around and yelling. I wanted more from this movie.