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Little Miss Sunshine
Time Out Says
For a movie generated from the Amerindie algorithm of family dysfunction, road-trip catharsis and studied quirk, this dark-edged ensemble comedy often borders on the loveable – as if a long-division problem had somehow become self-aware and started pining for a heart, a brain and some nerve. The yellow brick freeway in ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ leads to a girls’ beauty contest for Olive (Abigail Breslin), a cutie pie who’s nonetheless not quite pageant material. Because they are characters in a movie and for no other reason, Olive’s entire family must pile into a wheezing van to deliver her to the competition for the titular crown: Uncle Frank (Steve Carell) recently survived a suicide attempt, mum (Toni Collette) is loving but overextended, dad (Greg Kinnear) is an aspiring self-help guru and therefore a nightmare, brother Dwayne (Paul Dano) is a teenager and therefore mute and sulking, and grandpa (Alan Arkin) is a grandpa and therefore crusty and foul-mouthed. Fox Searchlight purchased Dayton and Faris’s by-the-numbers feature debut at Sundance for the astronomical sum of $10.5 million, a price tag that seems all the more incongruous affixed to such a modest exploration of failures professional, physical, romantic, financial, mechanical and otherwise. The actors are uniformly fine, even affecting, so it’s too bad that the jittery camerawork and editing chops up their performances so carelessly. And while the arrhythmic incoherence of the climactic stage routine would be merely appalling from most filmmakers, coming from a directing team that made their names in music videos, it’s, shall we say, superfreaky.