Little Miss Sunshine(Fox Searchlight, R)

Industry analysts have already been saying that comedies have generally been huge disappointments in the box office this year, and in this regard, Little Miss Sunshine is bound to be a breakout hit and a high point for a summer of (arguably) poor-performing comedies.

 

As one of the breakout hits from a Sundance Film Festival where all of the breakouts were from big names and thereby foreseeable, I’m happy to report that Little Miss Sunshine at least deserved its breakout status, as opposed to some of the others (Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep is for suckers, and The Night Listener was a joke), despite its seemingly strange inclusion in the festival in the first place.

Little Miss Sunshine is a road movie wherein a family has to get their precious daughter Olive (a surprisingly uncloying Abigail Breslin) across the country in a derelict VW bus to a beauty pageant for which she’s been practicing for ages and has her heart set on. The family is full of characters, as you would expect from a movie like this, such as Grandpa (Alan Arkin), a vulgar war vet, Frank (Steve Carell), and a gay and down-on-his-luck scholar, Richard (Greg Kinnear, playing the type of role he always plays), among others. Also expected is that Murphy’s Law is in full effect on the trip, especially with regard to the constantly-breaking-down and horn-deficient bus. With a cast of name actors and a plot as predictable and generic as it has, Little Miss Sunshine seems like it would almost have to be a disappointment coming from Sundance (films such as this one often only show there to gain some kind of otherwise unobtainable street cred). Credit its success to the film’s directors, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who are primarily known for directing music videos and episodes of Mr. Show, and producer Ron Yerxa, who had a hand in getting Alexander Payne’s Election made, as well as to the cast, who, while well known, are well known for a reason: They are talented. (How novel!)

Industry analysts have already been saying that comedies have generally been huge disappointments in the box office this year, and in this regard, Little Miss Sunshine is bound to be a breakout hit and a high point for a summer of (arguably) poor-performing comedies. Perhaps this is because, unlike many of the others, Little Miss Sunshine continues the comeback of R-rated comedies begun last year by Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. So, while it might be surprising that a film as mainstream-seeming as Little Miss Sunshine had to go to Sundance to get noticed (it didn’t have a distributor until Fox Searchlight picked it up after its first screening there), it makes more sense when considered that, even after similar films proved their marketability last year, R-shy studios still don’t have the good sense to make them; once again, independent filmmakers have to come to the rescue of American cinema.

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