A surprise hit and one of the few “word of mouth” movies of 2006, Little Miss Sunshine arrives on DVD, in both widescreen and full screen, just in time for the holidays. Is it worth picking up? Most definitely! Little Miss Sunshine arrives on shelves Dec. 19th, 2006 from Fox Home Entertainment.
As the official synopsis goes, take a hilarious ride with the Hoovers, one of the most endearingly fractured families in comedy history. Father Richard (Greg Kinnear) is desperately trying to sell his motivational success program…with no success. Meanwhile, “pro-honesty” mom Sheryl (Collette) lends support to her eccentric family, including her depressed brother (Steven Carell), 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 (Alan Arkin), 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!
The above synopsis from Fox Home Entertainment does not do the movie justice. Yes, that is the basic outline for the movie, but it’s only the beginning. What follows in this movie is a well-executed, dark, carefully written road movie, basically, with a host of solid performances, specifically by Steven Carell (of The Office fame) and newcomer Abigail Breslin. I can not really think of another way to put this movie but a genuine crowd-pleaser. Yes, that does belittle the movie, but that is exactly what it is.
And do not be turned off by the first few minutes. After an excellent opening montage, highlighting every character in the movie, the movie does get off to a dark start, but it quickly picks up as the family gets on the road. Yes, some of the events that happen do feel episodic, but it’s natural. It’s natural that, given this family, so much would happen over the span of a weekend. And a lot happens, too. I remember that actually turned off some critics early on, but it works past that. It’s a movie, so we can forgive the character arcs that would never actually happen happening over the two days. It all works. And splendidly, too. Everything, even the music used, just comes together beautifully.
I would hate to give away what happens in the movie, because there’s just so much. Within the first few minutes, things just start to unravel, and naturally so. There’s a lot of heart put into this movie, and the farcical aspects playfully work off it. We’re introduced to what seems like a grounded reality, but then we’re presented with a look at our own culture, particularly that of the disturbing pageant circuit. And yes, the movie can knock us over the head a couple times with a few of the more dominant themes, such as how we can’t do things alone, but as a team (i.e., when pushing the van . . . you’ll see). But that didn’t bother me at all. It’s a well-done, twisted little film, one that I twice in theatres and immediately leaped on upon receiving my screener copy to review. It just has a charm to it, and the characters are all relatable.
As for the DVD itself, the press release states the movie is presented together in both widescreen and full screen versions, the Little Miss Sunshine DVD is van- packed with bonus materials, including two audio commentaries, four alternate endings with optional audio commentary and DeVotchka music video from the soundtrack. It’s a well-rounded collection, but I just have the gut feeling we will see a two-disc edition down the line. Given how popular the movie was upon release and how it truly grew with word of mouth to a nice $57 million take at the end of its run, I can’t see this being it for extras. Surely there are more deleted scenes, a few featurettes and trailers for the movie. Call me cynical, but I just feel we’ll be getting a Little Miss Sunshine: Pageant Edition (or something) in the next year or two. However, given how good the film is, it’ll be worth it. The extras are as followed, in point-form:
-Audio commentary with co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
-Audio commentary with co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris along with writer Michael Arndt
-Four alternate endings with optional audio commentary
-Music video for DeVotchka’s “Till The End Of Time”
The extras are quite fair, too. The alternate endings are interesting, providing a neat look as to how the movie was, as the directors put it, without an ending up until the very end. They even stopped shooting one ending as they feverishly tried to tie up the movie to the best of their ability. The ending in the film, the finished version, is the best way they could have ended the movie. The alternate endings provided, one includes the family stealing the winning trophy, don’t ring home as well as the theatrical version.
The extras are spread over both sides of the disc. Since this version contains both the widescreen and full screen version, this disc is a flipper. Personally, you never need to flip it over to the full screen side. Yes, you are going to be missing out on a splendid song by DeVotchka (used in the opening montage), but the full screen version is just so . . . cropped. The 2.40:1 widescreen just suffers when cropped down to 1.33:1. I’ll admit the cinematography isn’t exactly mesmerizing in this movie, but the composition is important to many scenes in the movie.
Overall, it’s the definition of a crowd-pleasing sleeper hit and is definitely Recommended. It unfolds at a comfortable pace, but it is never overwhelming. No matter how much actually happens in the movie, the movie plays it along, never losing sight of the main goal. With splendid performances all around, particularly from Carell and and Breslin, it’s a definite winner. I expect this will be a very popular movie over the holiday season. While the extras aren’t as expansive as I’d like, I’d still recommend picking up this release based on the movie alone.
Originally posted on DVD Discussion forum in December of 2006.