Tuesday, July 11, 2006

MovieWatch: "Little Miss Sunshine"

"Little Miss Sunshine"
Directors: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 58
In a Nutshell: Enough people are already buying into the hype of this Sundance favorite, but you'll forgive me if I found it a bit too simplistically ironic and predictably dysfunctional. It's not that I wasn't frequently amused by this chronicle of one family's journey from New Mexico to a youth beauty pageant in California in a yellow VW van. I was. But I kept thinking over and over again that the movie neither knew nor cared where it was going and that it used a few superficial ideas to masquerade for genuine intelligence. You'd say that several crucial pieces of behavior, details that set the plot in motion and push it forward every step of the way are out of character, but there are no characters here, only dour assemblages of quirk, compilations of tics and neuroses that seem semi-viable only because the cast is so remarkable. Given the admiration in the industry for Steve Carell at this moment, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he found himself getting some awards attention, notice that he probably deserves. There's also a remarkable manic depth to the work by little Abigail Breslin, who mostly avoids Dakota Fanning Syndrome of being more freaky than cute and believable. Heck, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear and Alan Arkin are all pretty good, as is Paul Dano. With all those great actors, the movie almost seems to be trying to test viewer patience with shouting matches, broken car horns and the seemingly endless beauty pageant scene. Yes, we all feel the same contempt for scary stage parents and even scarier aspiring juvenile queens. Yawn. The gal behind me, the possessor of one of the most over-enthusiastic laughs I've ever heard, seemed to love the movie.

I think this one's coming out somewhere around July 28, so maybe I'll have a full review up on Zap2it by then.

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