This is the type of movie every independent filmmaker dreams
of creating. After a long and arduous
Little Miss Sunshine went on
to wow audiences at Sundance, was sold for eight
figures, grossed nearly $60 million, and ultimately earned four Oscar
nominations including Best Picture and winning two (Michael Arndt for
Screenplay and Alan Arkin for Best Supporting Actor.)
Still as charming and hilarious as when it
was first released in 2006, Fox has released the movie on Blu-ray with
image, fine sound, and some solid exclusive bonus features.
You couldn't ask for a more dysfunctional family. Olive
(Abigail Breslin), the chubby young
daughter, is obsessed with being a beauty queen after coming in second
contest while visiting her cousins. Her
foul-mouthed heroin addict grandfather Edwin (Alan Arkin) helps her
secret routine, working with her for hours at a time.
The teenage son, Dwayne (Paul Dano,) spends
all of his time reading Nietzsche and exercising, looking forward to
when he can leave home and join the Air Force to become a jet pilot. He's taken a vow of silence until that day
and communicates only through written notes.
The father Richard (Greg Kinnear) wants to become a motivational
and author, and sees everything as an example of his "9 Steps" plan,
Sheryl (Toni Collette) is just trying to hold everything together. The strains increase when Sheryl's homosexual
brother Frank (Steve Carell) comes to live with them after a failed
attempt caused by being spurned by one of his grad students.
At dinner the night that Frank arrives, the family gets a
fateful phone call. The winner of the
beauty contest that Olive was in had to back out, which means that
she's not qualified
to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in California, two states over. With money being tight flying is out of the
question and they can't leave Edwin or Frank alone.
The only solution is to pile everyone into
their old VW van and trek across the country.
It's not the perfect solution, far from it, but it's the only
can do without letting sweet Olive down.
Neither the road trip film nor 'the dysfunctional family
that learns to love each other' movie are new, but this film manages to
combined the two in quite an enjoyable way that's not insulting to a
intelligence. Though the film is
laugh-out-loud funny, the comedy wasn't silly or madcap, and it never
forced. The humor mainly derives from
the odd assortment of characters but, and this is the film's true
family members aren't just one-note weirdoes.
They're fleshed out people that could be living next door to
While it's the humorous parts that are the most fun, Dwayne
writing "Where's Olive?" for instance, the heart of the movie comes
but telling dramatic scenes. When Frank
encounters the lover who spurned him in a convenience store and quickly
his bandaged wrists the pain he felt before his suicide attempt is
apparent. Yet the film doesn't dwell on
that and quickly lightens the tone.
The acting is superb across the board. Alan
Arkin is amazing in his role as the
heroin-snorting grandfather who rarely speaks without swearing. Outrageously funny, he steals all the scenes
he's in and definitely earned the Oscar he was awarded.
Steve Carell plays a
character that is very different from his breakout role in "40 Year Old
Virgin." A more calm and sedate role, he
doesn't have a lot of lines but he plays the part with a tenderness
wouldn't have thought him capable of.
The way he cheers up Dwayne near the end on the dock is both
The Blu-ray Disc:
Fox presents the film with a 1080p 2.40:1 image the MPEG-4
AVC codec, and it looks fantastic. I've
seen the SD DVD several times and this Blu-ray disc is a clear
improvement. The colors are more vivid
though not overblown, and the level of detail is greatly improved. This disc does a great job of reproducing the
various looks of the film. The early
sequence of everyone eating dinner is has a warm feeling with the wood
containing a wide range of tones. The
desert scenes when the family is driving in the van are large and
the beauty pageant at the end is wonderfully garish and gaudy. In all of these the disc lives up to the
challenge with bright whites that are never crushed and solid blacks.
On the digital side things are equally impressive.
There was no banding even in the big sky
scenes when driving cross country and edge enhancement is no where to
scene. Aliasing, blocking, and other
common compression artifacts are also absent making this a wonderful
This film boasts a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that sounds
great. The film is mainly dialog based,
so there isn't much in the way of fancy audio effects but then again
doesn't need them. The dialog is clean
and crisp and the background music comes through wonderfully. The one scene that really stands out in the
audio department is the ending dance number.
I won't ruin the surprise of what Olive dances to but suffice to
music is appropriately loud and the mix puts the whole soundstage to
good use. It's a great scene and the great
audio only accentuates the action on screen.
All of the extras from the SD DVD release are ported over
and there's even a few new bonus items included. First
off are two commentary tracks, a
director's track with Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and a screen
track with Michael Arndt, Jonathan Dayton, and Valerie Faris. While there was some information repeated
between the two, both tracks are fun and enjoyable.
Like most commentaries they talk about the
genesis of the project and relate behind the scenes anecdotes but they
do it in
an entertaining and informative way.
There are also four alternate endings with optional
commentary from the directors. These
were hit and miss, and I can see where they had a hard time wrapping up
narrative. I preferred the ending with
the trophy, but the one they ultimately went with was just as good.
Of the new extras, the best are the longer ones: "On the
Road with the Hoovers:
the Making of Little Miss Sunshine" (19 minutes) on the shoot, and "Who
Hoovers" (17 minutes) on the cast. The
gag reel is okay but only lasts a little over a minute, and the music
poster gallery I could take or leave.
There's also a ten minute look at the music of the film and a
minute clip with the musicians Mychael Danna and DeVotchKa. The bonus section is wrapped up
series of webisodes that run over 25 minutes.
It's a great set of bonus material that is sure to please fans
Carefully walking the narrow line between too wacky and
crazy and too morose, Little Miss
Sunshine is a poignant, charming and
extremely funny movie that (despite some strong language) is a great
film. Fox's Blu-ray release is excellent
with a beautiful picture, great sound and some wonderful HD-only extras. I've seen this film nearly half a dozen times
and it is a film that you can enjoy almost any time.
images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do not
represent the image quality on the disc.