Little Miss Sunshine

  • Review Date: December 18, 2006
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Ride along to dysfunction in quirky indie comedy.
  • Review Date: December 18, 2006
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

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.

Violence

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.

Sex

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 pagent officials. A character is gay.

Language

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

Consumerism

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.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this family road trip movie includes sexual slang and references to drugs, mostly by the grandfather. 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.

Parents say

Kids say

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?

QUALITY
 

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 hysterically funny -- 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 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) and funny, tight script. 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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:July 26, 2006
DVD release date:December 19, 2006
Cast:Abigail Breslin, Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette
Directors:Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Studio:Fox Searchlight
Genre:Comedy
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:for language, some sex and drug content

This review of Little Miss Sunshine was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 15 years old Written byTacoBall March 6, 2011
AGE
14
QUALITY
 

Amazing movie, but inappropriate for young tweens and teens.

This isn't "just another family road trip comedy", as I thought it would be--this was DARK, QUIRKY COMEDY at its best. The acting was brilliant, the characters were unusual and the ending was touching and unpredictable (it made me cry). The grandpa said a lot of things (f-words, etc) that were probably inappropriate for younger watchers, and he used drugs, but they ended up killing him, which is a positive anti-drug message. Overall a beautiful movie, but be careful about showing even the edited-for-TV version to kids.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Teen, 13 years old Written byuhya August 8, 2011
AGE
16
QUALITY
 

amazing. SUPER FREAK

excellent movie. but it has drug use, porn magazines and around 20 f--ks. one character failed in suicide. great movie though.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byhockey mommy April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

Didn't like this one...

I watched this movie with an open mind, but really didn't enjoy it at all. I realize that not all movies have to have a message, but this movie wasn't funny either. A dysfunctional family (to say the least) travels across the country to have their daughter participate in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. The family was very concerned to get their daughter to the pageant on time, but only the drug addicted grandfather took the time to prepare her -- of course, a recipe for disaster. The daughter was embarassed at the end, which was "solved" in the movie by the family making complete idiots of themselves. I found no value in the movie at all -- not entertaining and a total waste of time.

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