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18 Questions for the Creators of Little Miss Sunshine

September 3, 2006

MOWC note: Do NOT read this review if you haven’t seen Little Miss Sunshine. It will spoil the movie and won’t make any sense anyway.

I saw Little Miss Sunshine last night and I may have a fuller review soon, but in the meantime, I have a few questions for the writer, directors and producers of LMS:

  1. When the family gets ready to leave on the trip to the beauty pageant in California, why exactly must Dwayne come?
  2. What diner anywhere in the United States includes numerous entree items for under $4? Seriously, tell me. I’ll eat there.
  3. Why would any mechanic in his right mind suggest that somebody drive a car that can’t shift from first to second gear, and then help them push the car so it goes fast enough to shift from neutral to second?
  4. After all the other wackiness, did you really expect us to buy the fact that Frank’s rival and the man Frank loved both happen to be at the same random truckstop in Arizona at the same time as Frank and the rest of his family?
  5. If the family is so concerned about cash, why do they get three motel rooms for six people? My family was never as close to bankrupt as this family, and the four of us always stayed in the same room.
  6. Why do the kids hanging out outside the motel lend Richard one of their mopeds? Couldn’t he have just gotten them to help launch the VW van?
  7. What’s the point of Richard finding Stan Grossman at his hotel in Scottsdale? The scene’s not funny, and nothing comes of it.
  8. Why do they steal Grandpa’s body? If they’re doing something illegal anyway, why don’t they just leave it there, come back and face the consequences on the way back?
  9. How is it that Dwayne, a kid who has dedicated his life to getting into Air Force flight school, doesn’t know that being color-blind will derail his goal?
  10. Why is Olive showing him eye-test flashcards in the first place? Is that something you usually pack for rushed beauty pageant roadtrips?
  11. When it becomes clear that Dwayne is color-blind, even if he doesn’t know it will disqualify him for flight school, why does he write “What?” on his pad? He’s not deaf, he can hear Frank tell his parents that he’s color-blind.
  12. Was that little black girl in the pageant a little black girl or an adult midget? There’s no way she’s a real child; her forehead is too big.
  13. If the family is so committed to Olive’s goal of winning beauty pageants, how is it that they have no idea what Olive’s dance routine will be like? Did they never hear the music? Never watch her practice?
  14. When the director of the pageant decides that Olive’s routine is too racy, why don’t they just turn off the music?
  15. Why does Frank tackle the host?
  16. Why doesn’t Olive, who at this point is clearly sensitive about being inferior to the other girls, show the slightest glimmer of recognition that her routine is a debacle? Do parents usually come up on stage during the talent competition and start grinding?
  17. With all of this contrived wackiness designed solely for laughs, do you expect us to buy the non-comedic parts, of which there are many? (Writer Michael Arndt says, “Yes I do. Look at the response of Sundance and look at how good word-of-mouth is. People are morons; if you fill a comedy with enough respected actors, intersperse the comedy with cheap drama and put it all to a Rushmore-style soundtrack, you’ll hook ’em every time. Did I mention that people are morons?”) (MOWC says, “He didn’t say that. But he might have thought it.”)
  18. I was poking around Fox Searchlight’s website for Little Miss Sunshine. Its links to Wikipedia, Youtube, Threadless and 43Things are some of the most blatant and desperate attempts at creating organic marketing I’ve ever seen. Its fraudulent attempts at authenticity are a perfect match for the movie’s fraudulent attempts at authentic emotion. (MOWC: “Was there a question there?”) (MOWC, Personality #2: “Now there is.”)

If anyone has any answers, I welcome them.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. ha! permalink
    September 8, 2006 9:37 pm

    Wow. Remind me never to see a movie with you. Way to suck the fun out of it. Its called willing suspension of disbelief. Do you only watch documentaries? Wow.

    • Rhyan W permalink
      June 25, 2012 6:32 am

      Agreed. Can just see me and this guy watching Godzilla.
      “OMG! Why is the dinosaur THAt big? They didn’t get that big. And breathing atomic fire? Come On….. is this supposed to be a serious film? And the Japanese people all speak perfect English. Pssssh. This is no Casablanca!

  2. September 9, 2006 4:17 am

    OK, you’re right, I sound like a humorless dick, but the reason I brought these questions up is because Little Miss Sunshine appears to want it both ways: with its high-profile casting, Rushmore-like music and dramatic scenes, it wants to be seen as something more serious than a typical stupid Hollywood comedy, but at the same time, it wants to get away with the same tricks that typical stupid Hollywood comedies get away with. By emphasizing the pathos of the characters and the tragedy of each of their situations, it’s almost telling us not to suspend our disbelief, to believe that these characters are like real people so that we’ll empathize with them. But if we are to take the dramatic aspects of the movie seriously, we then also must take the comic parts a little more seriously, and the credibility of a lot of the comic scenes doesn’t hold water.

    A movie like Anchorman, for example, doesn’t try for drama and doesn’t try for credibility. It just goes for every joke it can. And it’s hilarious. But if you want me to feel that something more profound is going on, if you want me to empathize with characters as if they’re real people, you must operate on a higher threshold of credibility.

    The perverse thing is that because Little Miss Sunshine purports to be more “real” than a movie like Anchorman (or say a really bad Hollywood comedy, like RV), I end up finding the comic aspects of the movie less funny because I’m judging them by the higher threshold of credibility that the dramatic scenes established.

    So you still might say, big deal, suspend your disbelief, don’t take it too seriously, it’s just a comedy. OK, fine, let’s ignore the movie’s dramatic strivings. Then the question is raised: how good a comedy is this? It’s got its funny moments, but it has quite a few stretches where the movie doesn’t even attempt to be funny. In fact, if you view Little Miss Sunshine solely as a light comedy–unbound by rules of credibility or logic–then those unfunny stretches (like when Richard confronts Stan Grossman) become a big painful dead space in the middle of the movie, sort of like if Ron Burgundy’s scenes in the bar in Anchorman were played for pathos, not laughs. Not pretty, is it ?

  3. Juan permalink
    September 17, 2006 6:55 pm

    Sorry, but I have to disagree. “Little Miss Sunshine” is a much better movie than “Anchorman.” Now, if you had said “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” instead of “Anchorman,” THEN I would agree with you.

  4. September 19, 2006 2:37 am

    I will agree completely on The 40-Year-Old Virgin but that exists on a different, rarified plane: it’s one of the few comedies, well, ever that is hilarious and makes sense. Anchorman, on the other hand, is the more common kind of comedy: one that is interested only in making people laugh, credibility or character be damned.

    I think your problem with Anchorman may be simply that you haven’t seen it enough. I wasn’t super-hot on it the first two times I saw it–I fell asleep somewhere in the middle both times actually–but it grows on you, like the fat chick in high school who always wanted to hear about your day.

  5. Emainiac permalink
    January 17, 2007 7:28 am

    I can address a few.

    When the family gets ready to leave on the trip to the beauty pageant in California, why exactly must Dwayne come?

    He’s 15. Any parent, especially a worried one, would have issues leaving a 15 year old alone for a weekend.

    What diner anywhere in the United States includes numerous entree items for under $4? Seriously, tell me. I’ll eat there.

    http://www.dallasdinesout.com/restrant/s/shadyside/shadyside.htm “Breakfast $3 to $8”

    Why would any mechanic in his right mind suggest that somebody drive a car that can’t shift from first to second gear, and then help them push the car so it goes fast enough to shift from neutral to second?

    A sleazy one who doesn’t want this problem of a broken down VW bus in his shop, or some other reason he wants them to get out of there.

    After all the other wackiness, did you really expect us to buy the fact that Frank’s rival and the man Frank loved both happen to be at the same random truckstop in Arizona at the same time as Frank and the rest of his family?

    They were travelling to a conference, something related to Proust, people cross paths.

    If the family is so concerned about cash, why do they get three motel rooms for six people?

    Perhaps some family special? Get two rooms, 3rd one free?

    Why do the kids hanging out outside the motel lend Richard one of their mopeds? Couldn’t he have just gotten them to help launch the VW van?

    Sure, but then you wouldn’t get to see Greg Kinear on a loud moped.

    What’s the point of Richard finding Stan Grossman at his hotel in Scottsdale?

    We need to see him try and “Refuse to lose,” but still lose.

    Why do they steal Grandpa’s body? If they’re doing something illegal anyway, why don’t they just leave it there, come back and face the consequences on the way back?

    Family ties, If they steal it and get away with it, no police, leave, come back, who knows what they’d do with the body?

    How is it that Dwayne, a kid who has dedicated his life to getting into Air Force flight school, doesn’t know that being color-blind will derail his goal?

    He’s a kid. Not every teeny bit would be planned through. I will admit, as a colorblind person myself, that it’s hard for him to not find out in early childhood. In washington state at least, there’s color testing in kindergarden and lower grades.

    Why is Olive showing him eye-test flashcards in the first place? Is that something you usually pack for rushed beauty pageant roadtrips?

    She jacked them from the hospital’s brochure rack.

    When it becomes clear that Dwayne is color-blind, even if he doesn’t know it will disqualify him for flight school, why does he write “What?” on his pad? He’s not deaf, he can hear Frank tell his parents that he’s color-blind.

    What? can also mean, please clarify, give me more information, etc…

    Was that little black girl in the pageant a little black girl or an adult midget? There’s no way she’s a real child; her forehead is too big.

    All the girls were actual pagent girls, who compete in real life. Real child.

    If the family is so committed to Olive’s goal of winning beauty pageants, how is it that they have no idea what Olive’s dance routine will be like? Did they never hear the music? Never watch her practice?

    She picked it up over spring break, it was a farily new thing for her.

    When the director of the pageant decides that Olive’s routine is too racy, why don’t they just turn off the music?

    Because the Techie is on Olive’s side. WOO! Go techies!

    Why does Frank tackle the host?

    ??? If you mean Richard, the father, he was protecting Olive. I wouldn’t want that creepy host touching my daughter, if I had one.

    Why doesn’t Olive, who at this point is clearly sensitive about being inferior to the other girls, show the slightest glimmer of recognition that her routine is a debacle? Do parents usually come up on stage during the talent competition and start grinding?

    She does, but she keeps trying to impress people. And with the family, if you’re family is going along with it, and helping you, to a little girl, that means the whole world is with you.

    With all of this contrived wackiness Blah Blah Blah (MOWC: “Was there a question there?”) (MOWC, Personality #2: “Now there is.”)

    It’s a movie! As soon as the movie is made, the directors and people who really care about the art of the movie are done, then the businessmen take over. End of story.

    (Bows)

  6. January 17, 2007 1:23 pm

    (Loud applause, followed by standing ovation.)

    Very impressive performance. I admit, I actually buy several of your answers.

    If there was one post on this blog I’ve regretted more than any other, it’s this one. It’s not that I changed my mind radically on Little Miss Sunshine–I still think its wackiness is contrived, many of its situations are familiar and unbelievable, and it’s only funny in fits and starts–but that anyone who reads this post gets the sense that I am a dour, petty boor who doesn’t know how to have fun. (That may be true, but you should at least spend several nights hanging around my sorry ass before you come to that conclusion…)

  7. January 18, 2007 10:13 pm

    “If there was one post on this blog I’ve regretted more than any other, it’s this one.”

    Believe me, I won’t rest until this post takes second place to the one on Leonardo DiCaprio!

  8. bro permalink
    February 3, 2007 9:29 pm

    wow. I finally saw this piece of garbage, and if anything, mowc was too nice. in fact, there are reasonable answers to many of the 18 questions, the problem is that you’re not asking
    the right ones. Ones such as-
    1. Is this even supposed to be a comedy?
    2. If so, exactly what is supposed to be funny? Sub-weekend-at-bernie corpse gags? a broken down van? a cussing grandpa? wacky dancing?
    3. If not, do one-note eccentricities and unearned epiphanies constitute good drama?
    4. Isn’t the horrifying pageant footage a much better fit for a documentary expose than a light family comedy?
    5. Did the sunshine creators go to the same filmmaking school as the napoleon dynamite writers, where they apparently teach you that if you throw enough eccentric characters at the screen that the audience can feel superior to, then the same audience will laugh and laugh even though these characters are not doing or saying anything funny?
    6. How the hell did this make a hundred million dollars?
    7. And finally, if this movie wins the best picture oscar, as some pundits are now predicting, will we look back on it in 20 years as a dances with wolves vs goodfellas level travesty?

  9. February 3, 2007 10:36 pm

    Wow. Finally someone agrees with me that this movie wasn’t anything special. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it “garbage,” but then bro was never one to pull any punches.

    One random fact: since Little Miss Sunshine won the SAG award for best ensemble film cast and The Office won for best ensemble TV cast, Steve Carrell got both awards. Do you think he’s the first actor in history who won in both categories in the same year? Tom Hanks didn’t win for Bosom Buddies and Splash, did he?

  10. July 9, 2007 7:16 pm

    I’m so glad I’m not alone! I heard so much about this movie and finally saw it. My reaction was “Wait, really? An Academy Award for best screenplay?” There are soooo many flaws in this screenplay, the writer must have the influential member of the academy to get nominated! I’m so glad you pointed out the $4 diner when you can see the price of gas in the background is $3.00/gallon. Here’s my problems with it: First, why so much time on the suicidal character, stakes high on him being left alone, yet his character does nothing throughout the movie to risk suicide or make us concerned about him. Then, why does the grandpa have to say the f-word so many times – oh wait, it’s because there’s no nudity or sex scene, gotta compensate huh – doing drugs on screen not enough? Biggest problem of all: Olive is counting on competing in this, she’s got her song, costume and routine ready. This is it! She’s a smart kid ready to win. Then her family gets up on stage acting like idiots? Wouldn’t she be PISSED AS HELL for them ruining it and making a mockery? She’d go running off stage and hate her family for embarrassing her! And yes, stopping the music would be the most obvious way to stop the routine. The teenager’s outburst is too quickly resolved “Sorry, I didn’t mean what I said”. He’s fine now after 9 months of hatred? And what happened to grandpa’s body? No burial? Nobody would just send their parent off like that. I could go on and on but I would vote for a recall on the Academy Award for best screenplay.

  11. allegro385 permalink
    October 22, 2007 4:55 pm

    While some of your questions are legit, some of them show that you have really did not pay close enough attention or at the very least have only seen the movie once.

    Question #1. Dwayne is under 18 and Dwayne does not speak. Therefore, any mother who has any protectiveness about her is not going to leave her son home alone under those circumstances.

    Question #4. I see this as highly unlikely, but more symbolic and giving us a deeper glimpse into his struggle.

    Question #10. We saw Olive pick these up in the hospital waiting room.

    Question #14. B/c the guy running the sound had already voiced earlier that the pageant people were nuts and he probably found the whole situation quite amusing-both Olive’s act and the director’s reaction.

    Question #15. Because he is trying to grab Olive.

    Question #17. This is what makes this movie such a jewel. The comedy and drama is so cleverly intertwined. It’s kind of like what Aaron Sorkin did in the TV series Sportsnight.

    Question #18. This movie is a character study of a “disfunctional” family who, in the end, aren’t that different from you and me. The chemistry between the actors is outstanding. The story takes the simplest and most common of tasks and situations and makes them interesting, even humorous. The many moments in the movie are what make it special, from the reconciliation between father and son, to a sister comforting a brother. I hold this movie dear and felt it necessary to defend it.

  12. December 10, 2007 3:49 am

    Response to your #10:

    She picks up the cards while in the waiting room at the hospital. She even asks her Mom to take the test then but she says no. Olive then puts them in her purse.

    Honestly, I missed it the first time, but try watching either more carefully or once again and I bet you will enjoy it more.

Trackbacks

  1. Little Miss Sunshine - A Review « One Thing I Know
  2. Little Miss Sunshine - A Review | One Thing I Know
  3. Little Miss Sunshine – A Review | a prodigal's blog

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