Heroes of the Zeroes: Little Miss Sunshine
Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.
Structurally, “Little Miss Sunshine” had as much independent spirit as “RV,” and there were a handful of eye-rolling plot contrivances.
The difference — big enough to drive a camper through — was that this road-trip tale had a stronger point to make than B from A: one for which theme was a destination, not a third-act rest stop. Not since “Lost in America” had the genre seen such a blend of slapstick, sincerity and satire. And how mainstream could it really be when one character so profanely endorses doing what you love?
Greg Kinnear morphs from his usual jerk mode into a complex patriarch. Toni Collette sails on an array of winning facial expressions. Paul Dano punctuates with pen and pad for his speech-free simmers. Alan Arkin’s hilariously salty zingers yield a most unlikely moral center. Steve Carell’s misery is deeply felt in every shuffle and distant gaze, until we share laughs, and fluttering heartbreak, with him.
They’re the Hoovers — a dysfunctional, disheartened brood en route in a rundown van to fulfill child-beauty pageant dreams of young Olive (Abigail Breslin, displaying a natural charm).
It’s funny to watch the VW van become the most unfit-for-road-travel vehicle since “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” But melancholy moments, and merry feelings make this story openhearted and richly human.
The ending seems pat upon first glance, but then again, so did the movie. The Hoovers stuck to well-worn pavement, but their trek kicked up gravel on the genre road less traveled.