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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Little Miss Sunshine


Starring: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 09 February 2009

Meet the dysfunctional Hoover family, as they are thrown together on a cross country road trip filled with mishaps. The Hoovers squeeze into the family’s temperamental old VW van to drive the 800 miles from their home after seven year Olive has qualified, by default, for the finals of the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant in California. With no shortage of setbacks and challenges along the way, the road trip is a mix of comedy highs and lows and tragic revelations that bring the family together for the journey of their lives...

Little Miss Sunshine is a sweet comedy that doesn't go for cheap laughs. In fact a lot of the comedy comes from awkward situations, but situations that anyone with a large family will instantly recognise.

Forced to spend a few days together travelling in the clapped-out family Volkswagen van, the Hoovers all have very different personalities which slowly start to clash. There's Sheryl (Toni Collette), the mother of the family who is overworked and very stressed; Richard (Greg Kinnear), the father who is trying to build a career as a motivational speaker and life coach and hates losers; Frank (Steve Carell), Sheryl's brother who is a scholar of French literature and is on suicide watch after the man he fell in love with ran off with another man; Dwayne (Paul Dano), the moody teenage son who has taken a vow of silence until he can accomplish his dream of becoming a test pilot; Edwin (Alan Arkin), Richard's life loving father who was recently evicted from a retirement home for snorting heroin; and Olive (Abigail Breslin), the seven-year-old daughter of Sheryl and Richard.

As the movie unfolds the family start to bond in their quest to get Olive to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant in time. Along the way we grow to learn things about each family member that shows they are far from perfect, yet still they are all well meaning.

Extras include two audio commentaries (one with the directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, and another that includes the directors again, but with screenwriter Michael Arndt); Deleted Scenes (7 min, 53 sec with optional filmmaker's commentary. It was a shame that the "Loser T-shirt" scene was cut from the finished movie); Do You Wanna Talk? (1 min, 17 sec outtake between Sheryl and her brother Frank after Sheryl has picked him up from the hospital at the beginning of the film); Alternate Endings (5 min, 09 sec worth of different endings with optional filmmaker's commentary); On the Road with the Hoovers: The Making of Little Miss Sunshine (18 min, 30 sec behind the scenes featurette); "We're Gonna Make it..." - A Session with Mychael Danna and DeVotchKa (2 min, 52 sec collection of clips of one of the soundtrack recording sessions); Who are the Hoovers? (17 min, 15 sec behind the scenes look at the characters and the actors playing them); No One Gets Left Behind: The Music of Little Miss Sunshine (10 min, 13 sec a look at how the music captured the right tone - a lot of bits of this featurette were used in the extra "We're Gonna Make it..."; Webisodes (25 min, 29 sec which is a collection of short on set diaries); Poster Gallery; Till the End of Time - Music Video (4 min); and Soundtrack Spot (32 sec advertisement for the soundtrack).

I was a little surprised at why the director's made two commentaries - as they generally just repeat themselves. It was almost as though they'd recorded the original commentary with the screenwriter and then thought they'd spent too much time comparing the differences between the script and finished movie and decided to just do a director's commentary.

Highlights on the commentaries include a story that illustrates that not everyone has a test for colour blindness at school. There's a story about how someone's uncle was taking their private pilot's licence test and failed at the very last hurdle when they took a colour blind test; how the one element that is almost universally misunderstood is the poor biker dad in the audience of the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant - most people mistakenly think he's a paedophile; and how the music that Olive dances to at the end of the movie was originally going to be 'Peach' by Prince, but was changed and so Abigail Breslin is actually dancing to 'Gimme all Your Lovin'' by ZZ Top even though on the movie it's 'Superfreak' by Rick James.

At the end of the movie you really do feel as though you've gotten to know the Hoover family pretty well, which is a testament to the actors. A beautiful movie that everyone will be able to relate to.


Nick Smithson

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