The five: Babel, The Departed, The Queen, Dream– (oh wait), Letters from Iwo Jima, and Little Miss Sunshine. QB’s favorite movies of 2006 will appear on 31 January, and let’s just say things will look a little differently. As in, totally different. As in, not one of the above five gets in. The oddball, dark horse entry is Little Miss Sunshine, the Little Engine that Could. Or, I wish it could. I wanted to love it, because I liked everything in its periphery–strong cast, indie production, out-of-left-field hit that gained genuine popularity with audiences (instead of, as with Borat, having that popularity market-tested to death and crammed down our throats), low-budget.
Alas. James Wolcott nails its problems:
It isn’t a terrible fraud of a movie (unlike some previous nominees and winners), but its modest assets have been overblown and oversold, its rickety contrivances mistaken for the raw bones of life. It’s a comedy riddled with cute, unconvincing gimmicks–the van that always needs pushing, the unexpected death that’s become a black-comedy staple (e.g., Rip Torn getting flattened in Dodgeball), the vow of silence that we wait to be broken–and signpost characterization. The entire family seems to have been peeled off a billboard advertising an All-American Dysfunctional Family. As the depresso, Steve Carell’s deadpan, crumbling stoicism is quite affecting, but he never seems the slightest bit bookish or professorial, much less a Proust scholar. His being the number one Proust scholar seems intended as a sort of non-joke joke, like David Lynch’s character in Twin Peaks being named Harry S. Truman, but it doesn’t “play,” and the movie’s finale number–the daughter clumsily shaking her pre-pubescent booty to “Superfreak,” provoking a tizzy–is a blundering letdown, badly staged, shrilly acted, and stupidly implausible. Abigail Breslin’s Olive has been obsessing on beauty pageants her entire young life (our first shot of her has her riveted in front of the TV, replaying the ecstastic response of a new Miss America being named), and has already competed in a JonBenet-like contest–she’d know that this 70’s retro burlesque wouldn’t be what the judges were looking for.
Go read it.