Heartwarming comedy follows a dysfunctional family on a frantic road trip across the US in a decrepit Volkswagen van to deliver their youngest to a chld beauty pageant on time. Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) is an ordinary little girl, perhaps even on the plain side as far as looks go but she has a dream cast in stone - to win the Little Miss Sunshine child beauty pageant. Her heroin-snorting grandfather (Alan Arkin) coaches her in some rather unorthodox and grown-up techniques - when he's not on the nod. Her mum (Toni Collette) and dad (Greg Kinnear) are at each other's throat because dad has sunk their entire worth into a self-help business that's a total non-starter. Her philosophically-constipated older brother (Paul Dano) has taken a vow of nihilistic silence and her suicidal gay uncle (Steve Carell) has come to stay for a while after yet another failed attempt to cash out early. Has Olive got a chance? No, she hasn't, but it's the journey that matters, not the destination - ultimately the message of this touching comedy.
It’s good to see the Blu-ray market maturing to the point where even a charming indie film like Little Miss Sunshine
gets to benefit from a high definition upgrade. And a terrific ensemble movie it is too, that rightly notched itself a Best Picture Oscar nomination, and even managed to take home a prize or two.
The concept behind Little Miss Sunshine is really quite simple. When, out of the blue, the Hoover family’s young daughter Olive (played by the charming Abigail Breslin) gets a place at the Little Miss Sunshine pageant of the film’s title, it’s the catalyst for a family road trip across Australia. Much of the film is spent cataloguing said journey, and it proves to be a minefield of comedy and drama. Alan Arkin’s Grandpa, a role which won him an Oscar, snares the majority of laughs, but with a strong cast that also features Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear and Paul Dano (who would follow this up with this career-best turn in There Will Be Blood), the production simply drips with quality.
What’s particularly satisfying about Little Miss Sunshine, which looks razor sharp and improved over the DVD in its Blu-ray guise, is that it keeps its momentum running right through to its excellent final act. Too often, films waste a good build up on a poor ending, but that’s absolutely not the case here. In short, it remains a little gem of a film, and it’s great to see it get a high definition upgrade. --Simon Brew