Every once in a while you run into a movie that just hits home. A movie with a plot that you can truly relate to. Little Miss Sunshine is such a movie. I first heard about this movie from a L.A. Times link on “The Church of the Customer” blog. This movie is destined to become another “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
This family depicted in this movie has so many interesting characters that almost anyone could relate to them. The dad (Greg Kinnear) is an over the top motivational speaker, speaking to tiny audiences through tightly gritted teeth. In the scene where he talks about his Top 9 qualities of a winner, my wife broke out into crazy laughter. She poked me with her elbow and we both cracked up. I quickly mentioned that most of my success presentations only have five or six points.
The mom (Toni Collette) is overworked and exhausted and she must take care of her son (Paul Dano) who has taken a vow of silence, a daughter (Abigail Breslin) who is practicing for a children’s pageant, her husbands cantankerous dad (Alan Arkin) and a overtly depressed uncle (Steve Carrell).
It makes for a great story as the family heads from Albuquerque to Redondo Beach in a battered yellow VW van. What makes this story so magical is the interaction between the characters. Each one is slightly over the top but represents characters that are present in most families.
I could really relate to the dad and his gritted teeth motivational speeches. In Toastmasters I’ve seen many outline oriented motivational presentations, some with 7, 8, or even 9 main points. I just had to laugh at the cliché laden, “refuse to lose” speeches. I’ve been there and probably said that over the years.
The whole trip in the VW bus is similar to one that my wife and I took years ago from L.A. to Albuquerque and back in a 71 VW Camper van. There is nothing more adventurous that taking a long trip in a VW bus and this movie pointed out many things that we experienced as VW owners over the years. The bad clutch, stuck horn, and even a door falling off have been a staple of VW ownership for years.
The other themes in this movie such as a children’s pageant, crazed uncle, expressive grandfather, and unconventional teenager are all things that most moviegoers have experienced in their own lives. What elevates this movie above its rivals is its refreshing and dogged refusal to ignore or sugarcoat the maddening nature of families, and the ability of each member to irritate the others with sure fire precision.
This is truly a witty and well produced movie that will have you laughing one minute and saying, “I’ve been there,” the next. It will be interesting to see if word of mouth advertising enable this low budget film to be one of the summer’s great surprises. As the Times article explains…
The life cycle of a word-of-mouth movie depends on its ability to ride a wave of critical success into more and more theaters, the inverse of the typical big summer movie that comes out instantly in thousands of theaters and often vanishes in a couple of weeks.
Time will tell, but this is one motor trip you won’t soon forget.