Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Little Miss Sunshine


… or JonBenet Ramsey Meets The Griswolds. A dysfunctional family (and what family isn’t?) sets out to take their 10-year-old (or so) daughter to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant in California. Everything that can break down does break down, including the family van which must be pushed to move at all, and the grandfather (Alan Arkin. Sound familiar? Dead Aunt Edna’s corpse strapped to the roof? WallyWorld closed down when the Griswold family gets there? But National Lampoon’s Vacation was deliberately over the top, went for the slapstick belly laughs. This one is more character oriented, and though there are plenty of laughs, there is also pathos. (Maybe a stronger word should be used. The viewer votes at Metacritic turned in a whole lot of 10s, but more than a handful of 1s. Almost no 5s. Love it or hate it.) It’s not really an exposé of these loathsome pedophile wet dreams or the monsters who promote them, we’ve seen that before. But little Olive is there only because she was first runner-up in a local pageant and the winner got sick. Neither she or her family have been really exposed to the sickening depths of depravity involved in dressing toddler girls like whores in pancake makeup and thousand-dollar call girl dresses, or to the level of talent displayed when you’ve been taking dance lessons since you popped out of the womb. Abigail Breslin is so, so good here, a slightly plump and sweet naif with coke-bottle glasses who wants to be loved and thought pretty and who loves to dance … to her own drum. She is so obviously out-classed that even her jerk of a father who professes to hate losers (and Olive knows she’s a loser) wants to pull her out, not because he knows she will lose, but so she doesn’t get humiliated. The ending is maybe a little over the top, but I didn’t much care. This is about the good side of being a loser—and most of us lose, most of the time, so we’d better learn to be good at it—and one of the most delightful movies of the year.