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September 1, 2006     Cape Gazette
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September 1, 2006

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CAPE GAZETTE - Friday, September I - Monday, September 4, 2006 - 139 'Little Miss Sunshine' deserves a place in the spotlight Movie Review By Rob Rector Special to the Cape Gazette A film featuring a heroin- addicted, porn-loving grandpa, mental child abuse and a 7 year old getting her groove on to Rick James' "Superfreak" does not immediately scream "heart-warm- ing" and seems a far cry from its title "Little Miss Sunshine." But as overused as that hyphen- ated adjective is, it is a just and accurate one when viewing this tiny comedy with some Goliath- sized laughs. The film should not work as well as it does. Its plot is as thin as butterfly wings, following a dysfunctional clan on a family bus trip to realize the dream of Olive (played by Abigail Breslin), the youngest family member who longs to com- pete in a pre-teen beauty pageant. Before visions of "The Partridge Family" start entering your brain, realize that this family is more prone to Danny Bonaduce's wildly adult dal- liances than singing "C'Mon Get Happy" with each other. The device of tossing together a family whose thinly veiled dis- dain for each other is time-worn in cinema, especially in the inde- pendent film circuit. ("Sunshine" was this year's runaway hit at the Sundance Film Festival.) It is a contrivance that, more often than not, yields disastrous results (look no further than this year's Robin Williams' debacle "R.V."). Films of this ilk build up steam, feature a smattering of amusing bits, but have no idea of how to tidily resolve its issues, and typi- cally crashes and burns long before the third act. As simplistic as it all may be, the nimble cast and the dark-but- compassionate writing of first- timer Michael Arndt, "Sunshine" is a rare film that builds steam as it enters its final frames, resulting in a finale that is, at turns, creepy, bittersweet, joyous and funny to the point of tears. The family who decides to stuff themselves into this canary-yel- low VW camper and travel down the highway to hell is appropriate- ly named the Hoovers - for it sure would suck to be a part of this clan. The father, Richard (played by Greg Kinnear), is a motiva- tional speaker who has trou- ble motivating an audience to KINNEAR even attend one of his lectures. Mom Sheryl (played by Toni Collete) is the straw that stirs the family coffee, but is oftentimes so frazzled that household meals often consist of take-out fried chicken and Sprite (served in their finest McDonald's collectible Mayor McCheese glasses). transporting drug loads into South Florida to identify a group respon- sible for three murders.Rated R. Uncle Frank (played by Steven Carell) is a once-esteemed scholar whose break-up with a former grad student left him suicidal and despondent. Grandpa (played by Alan Arkin) has been thrown out of his retirement home and seems deter- mined to live out his final days with his kin, while ARKIN cramming in all the vices he had abstained from in his youth. Teenager Dwayne (played by Paul Dano) decided to take a vow of silence until he reaches the Air Force Academy after high school, and resorts to scribbling notes on a scratch pad to communicate (which, technically, breaks his vow, but that is a minor quibble). And young Olive flits around, oblivious to just how insane her family truly is, determined to sashay down the runway after being crowned the winner of a beauty pageant. On paper, the family's individ- ual foibles may seem like a strained attempt to add quirkiness, which has become popular in movies focused on families. But Arndt did not define the charac- ters bv these traits. He merely refers to them, accepts them and moves on from there. The ensemble embraced each role it was handed as well, with to unravel the mystery behind their extraordinary romance before it's too late. Rated PG. Kinnear, Arkin and Breslin walk- ing away with top honors in a very tight race. Things do get silly along the way, and in more than one instance, the dramedy veers into "National Lampoon's Vacation" -like territory. But bubbling under its surface of "Sunshine" is the fear of failure and heartbreak, which is played with just the right balance by its cast. Richard is a self-absorbed ass, but he loves his family, even if he is too tangled in his own fail- ing "self-help" program to corn- municate with them on a recog- nizable level. Grandpa is an acid- tongued old coot, but he does throw out a kind word to his son and granddaughter when they are at their lowest. "Sunshine" could not have come at a better time, after spend- ing a summer gorging on big- budget, empty-calorie box office fare. And while it may not get crowned during the annual awards season, it still deserves its moment to bask in the spotlight and blow kisses to the audience. $ ! Off Any Sandwich between 11am & 2pro ICannot be combined with any other special. CRABS, CRABS, CRABS Visit us at Children's Playground. Free Parking Outdoor Dining Full Bar Continued from page 138 with a cute house, boring neigh- bors, stable jobs and the routines of newlywed existence. There's just one unfortunate hitch in their perfectly constructed new world. Rated G- 13. Lady in the Water: Cleveland Heep, a modest build- ing manager, rescues a mysterious young woman from danger and discovers she is actually a narf- a character from a bedtime story who is trying to make the treach- erous journey from our world back to hers. Cleveland and his fellow tenants start to realize that they are also characters in this bedtime story. Rated PG- 13. Cars: Lightning McQueen, a hotshot rookie race car driven to succeed, discovers that life is about the journey, not the finish line, when he finds himself unex- pectedly detoured in the sleepy Route 66 town of Radiator Springs. Rated G. Miami Vice: Ricardo Tubbs is urbane and dead smart. He lives with Bronx-born intel analyst Trudy, as they work undercover The Lake House: An inde- pendent-minded doctor (Sandra Bullock) who once occupied an unusual lakeside home begins exchanging love letters with its newest resident, a frustrated archi- tect (Keanu Reeves). When they discover that they're actually liv- ing two years apart, they must try Over the Hedge: Just whose backyard is it, anyway? Spring has sprung, and Verne and his woodland friends awaken from their long winter's nap to discover that a large, green hedge has cropped up right through the mid- dle of their once-natural habitat. Rated PG. bl l l e +++++++++++++++++'++++++ +