This little independent flim is quite a charmer. Almost completely written and directed by newcomers, Little Miss Sunshine is by no means perfect, but what it lacks in film techniques and plot depth is made up by its heart and emotional honesty. The scope of the story does not go beyond a small family made up of quirky characters - the heroine-addicted grandfather, the unsuccessful motivational speaker father, the mother who can't quit smoking, the Nietzsche obsessed teenage son who has taken a vow of silence, the suicidal unemployed Proust scholar uncle and the little girl who dreams of winning the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. This family is as dysfunctional and neurotic as your average sitcom family, but the characters are more real and interesting than their sitcom counterparts, thanks in large part to the capable actors who bring honesty and emotional depth to their characters. The young actress who plays the little girl Olive is quite a revelation; she plays the innocence and awkwardness of an insecure not-your-conventionally-cute girl so well one can't help but root for her in her endeavour to win the contest. Her character also brings out the best in her family, who comes together in the process of helping her realize her dream.
Little Miss Sunshine is unabashedly sentimental, charmingly quirky and incredibly funny. In spite of the somewhat predictable and contrived plot line, the movie is just as adorable and entertaining as its characters, not to mention hilarious. I dare anyone not to laugh at the third part of the movie that deals with the actual pageant itself. It is really to the movie's credit that it manages to portray the ridiculous if not disturbing nature of child pageants while at the same time making the audience laugh their heads off. The movie's messages are simple but effective: be honest, be who you are and try your best. The film certainly lives up to what it preaches. Like Olive who manages to be who she is among the hypocritical and phony beauty contestants, Little Miss Sushine manages to be a breath of fresh air in this summer's line-up of vain blockbusters and campy thrillers.