‘Little Miss Sunshine’ gets a mockumentary makeover in this lightly humorous take on petty dance-school rivalries and manipulated teen-stardom which delivers a formulaic triumph-of-the-underdog storyline laced with some gentle titters. Mr Jonathon (Ben Miller) is the effeminate, also-ran dance instructor who is desperate for his troupe, The Jazzketeers, to win a major competition. The thing is, instead of opting for conformist, crowd-pleasing routines (like his staunchly traditional rival, Miss Elizabeth), he feels the need to make grand, political gestures, creating concept-heavy routines with names like The Kyoto Protocol Shuffle which invariably peak with some kind of dystopian workers uprising set to thumping cod ’80s techno.
Miller’s Mr Jonathon is a tragic but endearing creation, and his semi-serious theorising on the joys of dance punctuate the action with some much-needed wry abandon. It’s a shame, then, that the film never makes an attempt to defy expectation, happily trotting down a well-trodden narrative track and wearily arriving at its predictable, heartening conclusion with something between a smile and a shrug. There’s also a slight discrepancy between the intentions of the script and the director, with the film constantly dipping into elongated dance montages populated by stick-thin teens in tight costumes while simultaneously berating the culture of public talent-contests and prepubescent star-chasers. The best moments come when the film bothers to take a risk, like a bizarre and beautiful scene half-way through in which goth costume designer Marianne (Tara Morice) breaks into a stirring and entirely superfluous rendition of Spandau Ballet’s ‘Gold’.