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Little Miss Sunshine (5/10)

by Tony Medley

This film has as bad a start as one could imagine. Talk about horrible pace! With a 99 minute running time, it takes 25 minutes to set it up. There is an interminable scene of the family at a meal that seems as if it will never end. Let me out of here!

Itís a pretty simple story. A dysfunctional family, headed by parents Richard (Greg Kinnear) and Sheryl (Toni Collette), with no source of income, takes off across the country in an unreliable VW bus to take their daughter, Olive (Abigail Breslin), to a childrenís beauty contest. Going along for the ride are Grandpa (Alan Arkin), son Dwayne (Paul Dano), and Sherylís gay brother, Frank (Steve Carell).

Had I not been reviewing the film, I would have bolted after 20 minutes. The setup is truly excruciating. However, once you make it through the first half hour the film is relatively entertaining. Kinnear is so good he can carry almost any film, regardless of the quality of the material. Collette is a consummate professional and holds up her end of the film admirably. But the person who really steals the film is Breslin. She has one scene in which she is required to cry that Sean Penn should be required to watch for a half hour per day. Real tears, Sean! Thatís what a true actor can do.

The film is a sendup of the grotesque child beauty contests in which little girls are made up to be vampy, sexy women. The little vamps are disgusting to watch, but this is a film with a message. The little girls who participate with Olive in the contest are made to look so grownup and sexy, itís freakish, little five-year-old girls in sexy swim suits, lipstick and pancake makeup. Ugh!

On the way, however, each member of the family, except Sheryl, must come face to face with eachís expectations and goals and face rude awakenings, all of which impact the family unit. These B stories are really the main theme of the movie.

This is not bad after the first half hour, but it is in dire need of a good editor.