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Little Miss Sunshine(2006)
The Hoovers. Father Richard is desperately trying to sell his motivational success program...with no success. Meanwhile, "pro-honesty" mom Sheryl lends support to her eccentric family, including her depressed brother, fresh out of the hospital after being jilted by his lover. Then there are the younger Hoovers - the seven-year-old, would-be beauty queen Olive and Dwayne, a Nietzsche-reading teen who has taken a vow of silence. Topping off the family is the foul-mouthed grandfather, whose outrageous behavior recently got him evicted from his retirement home. When Olive is invited to compete in the "Little Miss Sunshine" pageant in far-off California, the family piles into their rusted-out VW bus to rally behind her - with riotously funny results.
For more about Little Miss Sunshine and the Little Miss Sunshine Blu-ray release, see Little Miss Sunshine Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on February 8, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Michael Arndt
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin
» See full cast & crew
Little Miss Sunshine Blu-ray Review
Can a black comedy still be cute?
Reviewed by Ben Williams, February 8, 2009
Every once in a while a movie comes along that, for one reason or another, filmgoers get excited about rooting for. Little Miss Sunshine is one such feature. It was a surprise hit at the 2006 Sundance film festival, where audiences were hooked on the picture's hilarious, poignant and unique story and heartfelt performances. Despite the success the film experienced at Sundance, the film's production was a lengthy five year ordeal where screenwriter Michael Arndt was forced to quit his job as Matthew Broderick's assistant, financing repeatedly fell through and husband / wife directing team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris struggled to find enough support to complete the movie. Good things come to those who wait, apparently. Little Miss Sunshine was an almost instant success when it finally reached theaters; receiving Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay (Michael Arndt), Best Performance by an Actress (Abigail Breslin), Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin) and, finally, Best Picture. Arkin and Arndt walked away with Oscars while the remainder of the cast were celebrated by critic's associations around the world. Little Miss Sunshine has become a modern classic; a film that, despite its humble origins, continues to captivate audiences with its simplicity.
Olive Hoover's (Abigail Breslin) family is a mess. Her Mother, Sheryl (Toni Collette), has her hands full keeping the household together while her Father, Richard (Greg Kinnear), attempts to begin a career as a motivational speaker. Her brother Dwayne (Paul Dano) has taken a vow of silence and refuses to speak to anyone, while her uncle, the world's most accomplished Marcel Proust scholar, Frank (Steve Carell), recuperates with the family after a suicide attempt. Olive's loving Grandfather Edwin (Alan Arkin) is perhaps the biggest handful in the family; he's a foulmouthed heroin addict who lives with the bunch after being kicked out of his retirement community. Edwin is, perhaps, Olive's closest family member; he'll convince the family to support her after she receives a surprise invitation to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant in Redondo Beach, California. Not having much money and needing to keep a watchful eye on Dwayne, Frank and Edwin, the entire family piles into their old, yellow Volkswagen Bus to make the thousand mile trip from their home in Albuquerque. All Olive wants is to live out her young beauty pageant dreams in Redondo Beach and for her family to support her. With a dying car, her Dad's faltering success and rifts forming between almost every member of the family, she's going to need a lot of luck.
The beauty of Little Miss Sunshine lies in its deceptively simple storytelling and willingness to tackle issues that many would have considered controversial. That's not to say that the movie has an agenda or a cause, rather, it's refreshing to see a film gain popular approval that features such potential talking points as a suicidal homosexual Proust scholar, heroin-addicted grandpa and enough F-bombs let loose in front of a child actor to make a MPAA board member faint. Only a few years ago, this would have likely caused protests and cries of outrage around the United States. Thankfully, the film exists as an example of what indie filmmaking can accomplish. Original ideas, fresh directorial talent and a cast motivated by passion rather than profit have all fused together into a film that feels fresh and alive. It's marvelous.
Every cast member of Little Miss Sunshine deserves credit for delivering believable, dedicated and profound performances. The film practices a subtle brand of black comedy that tends to gain intensity through multiple viewings and each member of the cast sells the comedy as perfectly as possible. Steve Carell and Alan Arkin deserve special recognition for their efforts; both play against type while managing to be both hilarious and meaningful. Arkin was rewarded for his performance with an Oscar; not too shabby for a low budget indie comedy that producers weren't interested in financing. Steve Carell, who had only recently found fame with The 40 Year-Old Virgin, received a significant career boost from the film as well. Interestingly, his relative unknown status at the time the movie began production was considered by many producers to be an impediment to the future success of the film. It's fitting that Carell's new-found celebrity may have actually been an important factor in attracting audiences when the picture was eventually released.
Little Miss Sunshine remains a bitingly sarcastic and dark comedy with a surprising heart of gold. I wholeheartedly recommend the film as a prime example of what can still be accomplished in the movie busines on a low budget. Those new to the film will undoubtedly be surprised by its unusual tone. In spite of any animosity on screen, viewers who stick with the film will be rewarded with a joyously unexpected conclusion. Little Miss Sunshine is highly recommended!
Little Miss Sunshine Blu-ray, Video Quality
Given the low-budget nature of the production, it's somewhat surprising to see how visually rich Little Miss Sunshine actually is. Possessing a natural style that emphasizes average, every day locations, while still showcasing vibrant swaths of deeply saturated primary colors, the film takes on an appearance that belies its independent roots. Cinematographer Tim Suhrstedt's beautiful photography has been lovingly ported to Blu-ray via Fox's traditional 1080p, AVC Mpeg-4 standards while maintaining the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1.
Fortunately, Little Miss Sunshine arrives on Blu-ray with a transfer that is devoid of edge enhancement, posterization, macroblocking or any other digital annoyances. Shadow detail is well rendered with black levels that are ever so slightly crushed. As previously mentioned, colors are lovingly reproduced while never overblown. Detail is average, but maintains a hefty edge over the feature's previous DVD release. Little Miss Sunshine has an intentionally stylized look that often varies from what might be considered reference. Regardless, the film has been faithfully ported to Blu-ray by retaining its intended look and feel. Highly recommended!
Little Miss Sunshine Blu-ray, Audio Quality
One of the key elements of Little Miss Sunshine's sound design lies in the unique and spirited musical score from DeVotchka; a group of multi-instrumentalists and vocalists who perform in a wide range of musical styles that vary from Punk to traditional and regional Folk. This eclectic and tuneful score, co-composed with Mychael Danna, forms the backdrop to the entire film and anchors each scene with a memorable series of musical themes that help propel the picture's narrative. Unsurprisingly, Fox has rendered the movie's soundtrack with a lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that superbly recreates the track's subtle nuances.
Aside from the film's stellar score, Little Miss Sunshine is primarily a dialogue-driven affair. Witty asides and sarcastic banter punctuate every scene, unabated by the effects of compression, reduced dynamics or any unfortunate encoding-related side-effects. The results are crystal clear; ensuring that Little Miss Sunshine sounds exactly as it was intended to sound. While the movie is yet another in a long stream of recent releases that emphasize dialogue over action, there are a number of VW Bus-related incidents that liven up the film's surround activity. What's left is the occasional trace of rear fill and a light dose of directional activity. Little Miss Sunshine on Blu-ray sounds just right. Highly recommended.
Little Miss Sunshine Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Here's what's included:
- "Do You Wanna Talk?"
- "On the Road with the Hoovers: The Making of Little Miss Sunshine"
- "We're Gonna Make It..." with DeVotchka
- "We are the Hoovers"
- "No One Gets Left Behind: The Music of Little Miss Sunshine"
- 4 Alternate Endings
- Director's Commentary with Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
- Screenwriter's Commentary with Michael Arndt, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
- "Till the End of Time" - Music Video by DeVotchka
Befitting a flick as quirky and original as Little Miss Sunshine, Fox has graced the Blu-ray release with a wealth of special features that explore a number of aspects of the film's production. There are two insightful and entertaining commentaries included on the disc; both feature Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, while the second includes screenwriter Michael Arndt. I prefer the second track amongst the two; Michael Arndt makes for an effective and informative additional perspective. Multi-instrumental ensemble DeVotchka, who prove the music to Little Miss Sunshine, are profiled in two separate featurettes as well as a music video. Fans of their work will find these items fascinating. What remains are a fun series of short documentaries that chronicle the making of the film, a gag reel and a background study on the characters in the film. Little Miss Sunshine includes a slew of informative and entertaining extras. Nice job, Fox!
Little Miss Sunshine Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
What's not to like about Little Miss Sunshine? It's profoundly charming and sweet while maintaining a devilishly dark comedic tone. Steve Carell and Alan Arkin steal the show playing characters who are polar opposites to the roles they normally find themselves in. The entire ensemble is perfectly cast and help to make the Hoover family believable in their absurdity. Fox has done a tremendous job with this Blu-ray edition of Little Miss Sunshine by offering up stellar video, accurate audio and a selection of supplementary features that provide an off-beat and insightful look into the production. Very few films live up to the hype that is often generated for them at film festivals. Little Miss Sunshine remains one of the few features that manages to achieve just that. Little Miss Sunshine is highly recommended!
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Little Miss Sunshine Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - February 3rd - February 3, 2009
Kevin Smith is living the dream. His first film, 'Clerks', which he both wrote and directed, was made for under $30,000, yet managed to make 100 times that at the box office. Since then, he continues to write and direct his own films, has seen relative box office ...
• Fox Details Sunshine, Napoleon Dynamite, & Office Space - November 25, 2008
Fox Home Entertainment has revealed the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray releases of 'Little Miss Sunshine', 'Napoleon Dynamite', and 'Office Space', which are all due to hit store shelves on February 3rd. Video for all three titles ...
• Fox Makes Little Miss Sunshine and Sideways Official - November 20, 2008
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the two comedies 'Little Miss Sunshine' and 'Sideways' to Blu-ray on February 3rd. Both of these titles were previously listed with retailers, and had remained unofficial announcement until ...
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