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Movie Review: Little Miss Sunshine

Alternate Title: Hang On to Your Hat, It's Going to be a Bumpy Ride.

Story: The dysfunctional Hoover family is laid out in front of our eyes in a brilliant opening segment. We meet the adorable 7 year old Olive, who dreams of being a beauty queen. Richard, the dad, is an motivational speaker without an audience. Sheryl, the Mom, believes in truth and is challenged to keep this group afloat. Nietzsche reading teenage son Dwayne, has taken a vow of silence until he gets into the air force academy. Grandpa is living with the Hoovers after being thrown out of the retirement home for snorting heroin and Proust professor, Uncle Frank, moves in after a failed suicide attempt. No, this is not your average Kodak moment family, that's for sure.

What happens to each member of the family on a two day trip to the Little Miss Sunshine Beauty Pageant, from Albuquerque to Redondo Beach, CA in their beat up old VW van is what terrific films are made of. Kudos to directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and to first time screen writer, Michael Arndt.

The film has lots of belly laughs, a few scenes for welling tears and a generally entertaining bit of cinema. There is an occasional scene that could have been thrown away, but the overall quality made me forgive and forget the few glitches. You will fall for the Hoovers and get sucked up into their world.

Acting: The entire cast was fabulous. Abigail Breslin was simply perfect as Olive, the little girl. Her face speaks volumes. I am in love with that kid. Greg Kinnear as Dad was, al always terrific.Toni Collette, once again, plays 'the Mom' to perfection. Steve Carell surprised me with his nuanced performance as Uncle Frank. Paul Dano, as the silent teenager was exceptional and last but not least, Alan Arkin as Grandpa was, as always, the best.

Predilection: I like road movies.

Critters: 0

Food: Chocolate ice cream plays a big role in the film. A meal eaten at the Hoover's before the road trip featured chicken and corn on the cob.

Blatant Product Placement: VW (by the way, I had a 1965 VW Beetle that also did not start unless I parked on a hill and rolled it to get it going and into gear).

Soundtrack: Fun. The beauty pageant part of the film was hilarious.

Visual Art: Road movies have little visual art but the pageant, well that's another tacky story. Do I hear sequins?

Theater Audience: It was opening day of the film in NYC. I was alone in the secret balcony of my favorite multiplex but there were many folks downstairs laughing as hard as I was.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 3

Squirm Scale: Little girls in pageants are indeed, squirmy.

Drift Factor: No drifting for me.

Tissue Usage: I welled once or twice.

Oscar Worthy: yes

Soap Box: Beauty pageants for little girls should be illegal.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen for sure. Alan Arkin is a favorite of mine. Here are some of his films that I adore: Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, Slums of Beverly Hills, Gattaca, Mother Night, Glengarry Glen Ross, Escape from Sobibor, Joshua Then and Now, The In-Laws, Freebie and the Bean , Little Murders, Catch-22, Popi, The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming

Length: Under two hours