DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

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It’s approaching a stressful and hectic time of year as exams and final deadlines are fast approaching. This week in the information store we have a display of resources tailored to coping with exam stress and to go hand in hand with that is a comedy film recommendation to keep spirits high and to save you from slipping into madness.

Little Miss Sunshine is a delightful comedy-drama that takes you on a bumpy adventure in the back seat of an old camper to a beauty pageant accompanied by a bizarre assortment of characters. The film is centred around the youngest child of the Hoover family, Olive and her dreams of becoming the next Little Miss Sunshine at a beauty pageant. In order to fulfil her dreams, her family drive from New Mexico to California. The Hoover family are an odd bunch and Olive is no exception. She isn’t the pampered little Princess you normally find at these kinds of events, she has a little rotund belly, long mousy brown hair and huge glasses which look like flying goggles. That’s not to say she isn’t beautiful, everything about Olive is beautiful she just isn’t the most conventional of children. But she doesn’t come from the most conventional family…

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The father, Richard is obsessed with becoming a motivational speaker so often provides nonsense guidance which only irritates and angers those receiving it. The mother, Sheryl, is probably the most ‘normal’ of the bunch, her only secret is her smoking habit, but when we meet her she is on her way to pick up her brother, Frank, who was admitted to a mental hospital for trying to commit suicide. Sheryl is collecting him to come home and live with her. He has to share a room with Dwayne, Sheryl’s teenage son, a follower of the teachings of philosopher Nietzsche, who has taken a vow of silence until he succeeds in getting his pilot’s license to join the US Air Force. Richards father, Edwin, who is a drug addict and coach for Olive, who was kicked out of his retirement home for using heroin.  I can understand at this point that you might ask the question, and how is this a comedy?

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The answer lies in the genius writing of Michael Arndt and the acting brilliance of the ensemble casting consisting of Toni Collette, Steve Carrell, Alan Arkin, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano and Abigail Breslin. While on their trip together, things go from bad to worse as misfortune after misfortune befall this mismatched family. Their relationships with each other are challenged, their commitments are strained and their dreams are crushed, but it all happens without little Olive knowing a thing, so her genuine childlike happiness is protected and it is that that ultimately lifts the spirits of everyone around her in a finale that will fill you with joy.

Little Miss Sunshine is one of those films that if it had fallen into the wrong hands could have been utterly depressing but with a bit of quirk and charm has been transformed into a beautiful story about family and love. Sure to raise a smile or even a laugh in a multitude of places, especially from Grandpa. You might even shed a little tear as well.

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