The year’s best (yet most depressing) comedy: Lack of full frontal nudity doesn’t take away from movie’s hilarity

A couple years ago, Saturday Night Live had a skit that was a parody of the game show The Family Feud. The premise of the skit was that it was instead the “Dysfunctional Family Feud.” If that skit were to air today, the winning family would be the Hoover family from the comedy Little Miss Sunshine. How can a family lose with a heroin addicted grandfather, a teenage boy who has taken a vow of silence, a father who is steeped in his own nine-step plan to success, and a homosexual brother-in-law who was recently released from the hospital for a suicide attempt (did I mention he is the foremost Proust scholar in the United States)? It seems that the only sane members of the family are the women. The mother is the rock of the family and the 6-year-old daughter has dreams of becoming a beauty pageant queen. Little Miss Sunshine is the story of this family’s eventful trip from Albuquerque to southern California for a beauty pageant. The movie joins the ranks of The Royal Tenenbaums and Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of the Summer Night as one of the most depressing yet oddly funny movies in cinema history. The obvious lack of breasts does not take anything away from the quality of the movie. The film starts off with a montage introducing the characters. The most captivating characters prove to be the best in the movie, such as the heroin-snorting grandfather played by Alan Arkin and the suicidal Frank played by Steve Carell. The characters are well introduced in this montage and they come together at a far from typical family dinner. The rising action of the film occurs when a girl is not able to fulfill her duties as Regional Little Miss Sunshine; the reason “has something to do with diet pills.” This part of the film is poorly executed and comes across as forced. The family cannot afford to fly the girl to the competition due to a lack of funds, and of course, the entire family has to come on the road trip. In the end, the poor execution of the opening doesn’t matter as the unique story makes up for it. The car used to make the trip is a beat-up yellow Volkswagen Bus whose clutch fails early on in the movie. The mechanic informs the mother and father of the family, played by Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear respectively, that the car cannot be shifted into first or second gear, but if they get enough speed, the can get it into the third and fourth gears by going down a hill or pushing the car until it reaches 15-20 miles an hour. What follows after is a story of death, failed dreams, and self-realization. Finally, the film culminates in a dance scene that is both funnier and more embarrassing than the one in Napoleon Dynamite. If any movie can make heroin addiction, suicidal Proust scholars, and a chubby beauty queen dancing to “Super Freak” funny, it is Little Miss Sunshine. The movie is most definitely worth the price of the ticket, and is even worth seeing a second time.