Little Miss Sunshine

Movie review by
Betsy Bozdech, Common Sense Media
Little Miss Sunshine Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Ride along to dysfunction in quirky indie comedy.
  • R
  • 2006
  • 101 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 36 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 90 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Family members argue, lie to each other, discuss suicide, sex, and death. But they also comfort each other and support each other when it really counts.


References to suicide (Frank's cut wrists/bandages are visible, and Dwayne threatens to kill himself); some slapsticky antics; a character dies in his sleep, and the body plays a role in the rest of the movie.


Grandfather alludes to sexual desire and acts; Frank purchases porn magazines (gay and straight); Olive's suggestive performance at the pageant (taught to her by her grandfather) upsets the pageant officials.


Around 10 "f--k"s, as well as other mild profanity.


Mostly references to or brief shots of food products (fried chicken, Sprite, McDonald's, Burger King, Coca-Cola), plus Miata, Volkswagen.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Sheryl smokes cigarettes; Grandpa refers to cocaine and heroin use and is shown snorting drugs once.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Little Miss Sunshine is a hilarious but mature family road trip movie. It includes sexual slang and references to drugs, mostly by the grandfather. Gay and straight pornographic magazines (only the covers are shown) and a comedic striptease figure into the plot. Characters discuss depression and suicide (Uncle Frank has cut his wrists before the movie starts; his bandages are visible). There are conversations about "winning" and "losing," as measured by financial success. A character dies about halfway through the film; the family wraps up his body and carries it in their van to their destination. Characters curse (several "f--k"s), and the mother smokes a couple of cigarettes.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bysrperez June 16, 2019

question about the "not present" positive messages??

I'm not clear why it says "not present" for positive message. The whole journey to the pageant represents family working together and supporting... Continue reading
Parent of a 11-year-old Written byKeyser August 5, 2018

6.3.9 (18/30)

Little miss sunshine is a 2006 comedy film which received positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. This movie is rated R for langauge, some sex and dr... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byindiemovies August 6, 2015

Independent Dark Comedy is Excellent

The basis of this wonderful movie is dark and depressing at best. Every person in the family loses something, and it would be a bleak state of mind without the... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old February 6, 2021

Little miss sunshine was hilarious and really good

I think little miss sunshine was quite good. It was really funny and the characters were quite good. This is not for younger children though. At the beginning i... Continue reading

What's the story?

The Hoover family decides to make the trip from Albuquerque to Southern California after starry-eyed daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) unexpectedly scores a spot in the regional Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. The whole clan -- sunny Olive; anxious mom Sheryl (Toni Collette); aspiring motivational speaker dad Richard (Greg Kinnear); feisty, drug-using Grandpa (Alan Arkin); cynical teen Dwyane (Paul Dano); and gay, suicidal Proust scholar Uncle Frank (Steve Carell) -- piles into their old yellow Volkswagen bus (which has become the movie's signature image) and hits the road. Naturally, that road is full of all kinds of obstacles -- including car trouble, lots of bickering, and even an unexpected death. But in the process of working together to help Olive make it to the pageant, the Hoovers come to understand each other anew ... or at least appreciate the fact that no one else could possibly understand them except each other.

Is it any good?

This is a delightful film with a funny, tight script. It's true that the family road trip comedy isn't exactly a new genre; nor are quirky indie movies about dysfunctional families all that hard to come by. But somehow LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE manages to combine the two into something fresh, engaging, and often hilarious -- with a dash of "aw shucks" poignancy to boot. There's nothing radically new in terms of storytelling or character development, but the film nonetheless succeeds, thanks in part to its excellent cast (husband-and-wife directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris lucked out, casting Carell just before he hit it really big with The 40-Year-Old Virgin). There aren't any wasted moments in this movie; even the smallest action -- Frank buying the dirty magazines, for example -- turns out to matter down the line.

And then there's the finale. Ever since Little Miss Sunshine premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival (and was purchased for a record $10.5 million), the big beauty pageant finish has been making audiences laugh until they cry -- which is pretty much how the Hoovers seem to approach life in general, so it all works out in the end.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way the Hoovers come to respect one another's differences. How does young Olive remind the adults of their lack of faith, innocence, and commitment?

  • How does the beauty pageant serve as a metaphor for other competitions in the film -- say, between family members?

  • How might Richard be more open to his family's needs, rather than trying to make them conform to his?

  • Why do you think this movie -- a little indie discovered at the Sundance Film Festival -- did so well with audiences? What's it's appeal?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedy

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