By Joy Kucinkas
For the first time in recent history, a successful dramedy has hit theaters. Little Miss Sunshine’s raw irony is evident even before the first scene, as the characters are introduced haphazardly during credits. Each is miles away from the plastic surgery experiments that litter most Hollywood flicks, yet they’re loveable in a sort of ‘let-me-push-up-your-glasses’ kind of way. This beyond-dysfunctional family is barely realistic, but the motley crew drags the audience along on a roller coaster of warm fuzzies, belly laughs and perhaps some damp eyelashes.
The story begins with a snapshot of the family including the literal eye-opening of Uncle Frank (Steve Carell), a suicidal, heart-broken Proust scholar, and the heroin-snorting Grandpa (Alan Arkin) doin’ his thang behind locked door. A sit-down dinner of KFC and on-edge conversation proves the family beyond civility until the youngest member of the cast, Olive (Abigail Breslin) finds out she’s been invited to compete in California’s ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ pageant. Fortunately, a young actress other than Dakota Fanning fills this role. The crew piles into their beat up yellow VW van and makes a less than stereotypical race against time with several ‘I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened!’ side trips. With a stellar soundtrack featuring a surprise well-known dance groove and multiple singles by the talented DeVotchKa, Little Miss Sunshine has viewers humming their way out of this witty, feel-good flick.