Little Olive Hoover is unexpectedly accepted in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. Her Jewish family decides to take her to the California contest although their van tends to break down and the deadline for entry into the finals is near. Along with them are her gay suicidal uncle, her brother who will not speak, perfectionist motivational-speaker father who stresses out her quietly-seething stressed-out mother, and her sex-obsessed drug-taking grandfather.
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While on the road, the car breaks down and cannot start unless it's on a hill. The family gets used to this. Along the way, the grandfather dies in a hospital but the family refuses to stop its trip and sneaks his body out of the hospital. They arrive at the pageant just after the deadline but they manage to make it in. Looking about at the contestants, they realize that the pageant people have ideals that they do not share, but they are determined to do everything to make Olive happy.
The review of this Movie prepared by Carole McDonnell
Olive (played by Abigail Breslin) has dreamed of becoming Miss America, or at the very least, of competing in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. Her teenaged brother, Dwayne (Paul Dano), dreams of becoming a fighter pilot, but in the meantime has discovered Nietzsche, hates “everyone”, and refuses to talk. Her grandfather (played by Alan Arkin) is a cocaine- and porn-addicted, but is nonetheless preparing Olive for the pageant. Uncle Frank (Steve Carrell), a renowned expert on the work and life of Marcel Proust, has just checked out of a psych ward after trying to commit suicide over losing his lover to another man. Olive's dad (played by Greg Kinnear) is a motivational speaker with a 9-step program that he hopes will win him fame and fortune, but for now attracts a handful of attendees in public school classrooms. And mom (Toni Collette) is a nervous wreck, chain smoking and trying to prevent the family from imploding.
Despite their individual dysfunctions, they travel together in a dilapidated VW camper van from their home in New Mexico, to southern California, where Olive is competing in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. The resulting road trip is filled with misadventures, starting with dad's business venture. His agent is having trouble pitching the 9 steps, even though dad has spent the family's entire savings on the attempt. Dad drives from one highway payphone to another, trying to reach the agent, waiting desperately for a call on his cellphone. Grandpa tries to impart to his grandson important life lessons about having sex with lots of girls while he is still young. At a highway gas station and rest stop, Uncle Frank picks up some hard-core porn for Grandpa (and, we learn later, some gay porn for himself), which later proves valuable in getting the highway patrol off the family's case as they near Los Angeles.
When Grandpa has a sudden, fatal, heart attack in his motel room during the trip, the harried family must make arrangements to dispose of the body, out-of-state. But they're also running late in getting Olive to the pageant. Dad's ingenuity resolves the problem, for a while. The camper van is, however, in an increasingly precarious state, and, if Grandpa's untimely death doesn't prevent the family from making it to Little Miss Sunshine, the state of the camper van just might. Then again, Dwayne's roadside emotional breakdown can't possibly help matters. Dwayne learns, during the trip, that he will not be able to fulfil his dream of becoming a fighter pilot and, devastated by the realization, he urges the family to leave him by the side of the road and to continue on their way. Against all odds, all of the family members, living and dead, make it, with seconds to spare, to the pageant. Competition among the pre-adolescent girls is fierce, and Olive's chances of success look slim. Somehow it is Olive who helps them overcome their personal crises and come together in a common cause.
The review of this Movie prepared by Jan Arata