“Little Miss Sunshine”

Got a chance to see a sneak preview of “Little Miss Sunshine” last night. Didn’t know much about the movie other than Greg Kinnear and Steve Carell were in it, and that it was a road movie. But, hey, free movie.

The showing was packed, which is always fun. The energy level of an audience can raise my own enjoyment of a flick. Unless I’m grumpy. But that’s so rare… Heh.

The movie is a road movie, but it’s also one of those dysfunctional family movies. The family’s 7-year-old, Olive, has managed to get into a beauty contest via default, and the whole family packs into their old VW bus to drive from Albuquerque to Redondo Beach in two days to be there on time.

Kinnear plays a hapless motivational speaker hoping for a book deal to make all his dreams come true; his wife, Sheryl, played by Toni Colette, wasn’t well-developed but was essentially the long-suffering type. Carell plays Frank, Sheryl’s gay, suicidal brother. Carell’s normally-blank, deadpan delivery works well in a darker mode, making Frank’s pain all the more evident in the humor he finds.

Alan Arkin plays the coke- and heroin-addicted grandfather, and the one who has worked with Olive on her presentation for the beauty pageant – which, once Arkin’s character is established, raises the looming specter of what on Earth he could have taught his 7-year-old granddaughter, a rising note of tension which resolution made for a laugh-out-loud conclusion.

Comedies thrive on conflict and this one is no exception. I think the directors, Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Faris, along with the writer Michael Arndt, did a great job of balancing the serious parts necessary to bring teh funny.

I recommend the movie.