The Hoovers have dreams. Dad Richard imagines himself becoming the next Tony Robbins. Mom Sheryl dreams of a big happy family. Grandpa wants to go out in a blaze of glory. Uncle Frank longs to be recognized as the nation's pre-eminent Proust scholar. Brother Dwayne wants to be a fighter pilot. And then there's Olive. The pudgy, bespectacled 7-year-old wants to be Miss America.
Put all of these dreams in an old VW van and send them to Southern California for a beauty pageant, and you get Little Miss Sunshine.
This is the first feature-length project for the husband and wife directorial duo of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, both highly respected for their work in the music video world. Perhaps nicknamed the "Little Movie That Could," Little Miss Sunshine took five years to make and, thanks to its warm reception at 2006's Sundance Film Festival, is finally seeing a U.S. release—albeit in limited theaters.
As its Sundance pedigree might suggest, Little Miss Sunshine has an eccentric veneer, but don't let that fool you. The script is far more conventional than its indie pop soundtrack (DeVotchKa and Sufjan Stevens provide the highlights) would have you believe, right down to unfortunate blips on the narrative radar involving porn magazines and state troopers that could have come straight from Super Troopers and a moment of sibling bonding that's all but gift wrapped. This said, there is a zany ethos to Little Miss Sunshine that, despite its most clichéd moments, stokes a lovely poignancy in this look at family life and the capacity for hope in the face of absurdity and calamity.
Much of the absurdity is provided by the Little Miss Sunshine contest—the attempt to get there and the pageant itself. The garish ...1