Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
4 stars
Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3.5 Stars
Supplements
4.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Little Miss Sunshine

Street Date:
February 3rd, 2009
Reviewed by:
High-Def Digest staff
Review Date: 1
March 2nd, 2009
Movie Release Year:
2006
Studio:
Fox Home Entertainment
Length:
0 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

How easy is it to get caught up in life's big beauty pageant? How you dress, what you weigh, how good your skin is etc. You can either be obsessed by it or you can walk to your own beat in life, comfortable and confident. Stop and think of how far back you have to go before you remember a time when you felt you weren't judged by society or felt the freedom to do really anything without thinking of the consequences. When was the last time you weren't reminded of how bad life can be? Seven years old perhaps? Most people would have to go way back, while others have rediscovered later in life to accept themselves for who they are and understand that life is what you make of it. For the Hoovers, the journey of finding that out, and preserving that innocence for their youngest, Olive (Abigail Breslin) is what 'Little Miss Sunshine' is all about.

Sheryl Hoover (Tony Collette) has just brought her brother Frank (Steve Carell) home from a failed attempt at suicide. Her husband Richard (Greg Kinnear) is a motivational speaker who has yet to hit it big but is waiting to hear news for a pending book deal that will launch his career. Her son, Dwayne (Paul Dano) vows never to speak until he becomes a test pilot, and her husband's father, Edwin (Alan Arkin) spouts off his potty mouth while secretly shooting heroin in private. Edwin's been coaching seven-year old Olive for the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant (in which she's been qualified to compete) in California in two days. Problem is that they're in New Mexico and their only means of transportation is a rusted, beat-up, canary Volkswagen Microbus. The entire family has to go, as Frank can't be left alone, and Sheryl's not about to leave her son by himself.

When the road trips starts, everyone's flaws begin to reveal themselves inside the van. Richard, despite his confidence, has never been made it big in his career to where someone would publish his boks. Dwayne discovers he's may not be fit for to fly the skies, and Frank comes face-to-face with the ex-lover who left him for a rival scholar, the impetus for his suicide attempt. Even the VW van begins to break down and won't start unless it's physically pushed fast enough to start in second gear. In a mad relay sprint, everyone but the driver (yes, Olive too) pushes the van and must catch up to the running car and jump in–the start of some real family bonding. Despite all the tension between the family members Olive is kept away from the arguing by listening to the music for her routine. Then comes the turning point. After an unexpected tragedy, the real craziness begins.

The pageant is filled with little girls made up like adult Barbie-dolls with full makeup, skinny tanned-bodies, unnaturally glowing white teeth and look as if they're 7 years old while trying to appear 35. All the girls are "gifted" in some over-the-top talent. Olive who is the exact opposite of every other competitor, begins to doubt herself but is encouraged by her mother who has kept her family barely together up this point. Afraid of the damage the competition could cause, Richard, Frank and Dwayne band together to pull her out but Sheryl leaves it up to Olive to decide if she wants to perform her dance routine building to a show-stopping finish.

How the Hoovers eventually band together after starting so very far from one another is the magic of this film. Perhaps it was the tight quarters of the van, or just the vibrant and real characters that shined through it all to make this the "little independent film that could," and one of the highlights of 2006. Anyone who has watched Little Miss Sunshine comes away with a favorite family member. , The answer varies from person to person, a testament to the superb acting by the entire cast. The film's tone is picture-perfect in delivering the right balance of sarcasm and hope and is sure to hold up years from now. We can find a little of us in everyone of these characters whether it's the wildfire spirit of Arkin's Edwin, the persistent Richard, or the passionate and dark Dwayne, the Hoovers push-start our hearts and remind us that we shouldn't feel helpless in what life provides us but instead take life by the horns and live it out in your own unique way. Who couldn't use that kind of sunshine today?

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Despite the independent budget of the film, Little Miss Sunshine has always strived to look like something more. Fox presents the film in a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC codec transfer, preserving the original 2:40:1 film in beautiful fashion. There's a clear but ever-so slightly soft look to the LMS. Apparent depth and detail are nicely reproduced, especially in the early dinner scene in the home and in the exterior locations. Colors look crisp and bright–just look at the bus– with no detection of over-saturation. The pageant could be seen as being on the saturated side, but I think that has more to do with the bright hyper-colors of the outfits and the colored spotlights used to light the scene. Textures appear lifelike, from the old wood grain wall paneling in the house to the landscapes of southwest America. There's no sign of edge enhancement, artifacting, or digital noise to mar the image. Blacks are at a good deep level. It's a very strong transfer without edging towards the ultra-high definition look.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

As in most low-budget films, big audio isn't a highlight of the disc. Mostly a dialogue-driven film, the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track holds court in a solid mix of spoken word at all levels amidst the quirky and folky score by DeVotchka. Filled with catchy rhythms of dancing drums and woodwind instruments the music of Little Miss Sunshine is just as infectious as the rest of the film. I found myself drumming my knee during the film. As important as the music is in creating mood, it never overpowers a scene or any of the actor's lines. It's dynamic but not intrusive. Surround channels don't get much activity outside of vehicle noise but the microbus' horn does making for one of the lasting impressions of the film. Panning movement comes in the way of occasional road traffic noise, but nothing seems out of place or unnatural. It's the subtle noises and the orchestra of the great dialogue that's on display here, as it should be.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Everything from the DVD has been imported to blu-ray with some new material. There's definitely a large amount of value for your money here, with two commentaries, alternate and deleted scenes, and loads of featurettes. Is this really an independent film? Most of the extras are in Dolby Stereo and in standard definition.

  • Director's Commentary by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris - Dayton and Faris provide an insightful behind the scenes commentary.
  • Screenwriter's Commentary by Michael Arndt with Dayton and Faris - The directors are back, but this time with Arndt and the structure of the story is discussed in more detail. I'm not sure how much I wanted to have Dayton and Faris back for a second commentary as there starts to be some repetitionm, but it's nice to see them involved in the extras as much as they are.
  • Deleted Scenes: "Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Dayton and Faris and Arndt" (HD, 7:53) - Another terrifying scene from the pageant is one of a handful of scenes left on the cutting room floor.
  • Alternate Endings: "Alternate Endings with Director's Commentary" (HD, 5:09) - Here are 4 different takes on how to end the film with one in particular being very mischievous and another completely out in left field.
  • Featurette: "Who are the Hoovers? " (SD, 17:15) - The main cast members are broken down by directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Davis. This is one of the brand new features on the blu-ray
  • Featurette: "On the Road with the Hoovers " (SD, 18:30) -
    A well-designed making-of extra that doesn't feel like it's pure marketing.
  • Featurette: "Webisodes" (HD, 25:29) - 13 promotional clips, around two minutes each, that focus on little bits of the film such as the Pain of Comedy-Suffering, Olive's interaction with her grandfather, goofing around Alan Arkin etc. For those hoping to see Steve Carrell clowning around, this is where to go. This is a brand new extra added for the blu-ray and outside of the commentaries the extra that will likely get repeated viewings.
  • Featurette: "No One Gets Left Behind (SD, 10:13) - A segment on the musicians behind the score and the soundtrack.
  • Featurette: "Do You Wanna Talk?" (HD, 5:09) - A thankfully short gag reel.
  • Featurette: "Til the End of Time Music Video " (SD, 4 minutes)
  • Featurette: "We're Gonna Make it" A Session with Mychael Danna and Devotchka " (HD, 2:52) - A short montage of the musicians and composer of the score with video clips.
  • Posters: "Posters " -
  • Theatrical Trailers (HD) - There's no trailer for 'Little Miss Sunshine,' but a few other HD spots for 'Napoleon Dynamite' and 'French Connection'. There's also one standard definition trailer for Sideways.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no high-def exclusives.

Final Thoughts

'Little Miss Sunshine' is the little darling that worked its way into our hearts in 2006. It didn't have to try very hard.honestly all it took was to put Abigail Breslin on camera. Carrell impresses in a much more subdued performance than what many may be used to. Arkin reminds us of why he has been so cherished throughout the years. This is a film where everything blends together perfectly. Just when you think it's too heavy, here comes the sweet. It's both fragile and fearless and undoubtedly worth a dip into Blu-ray. With a great wealth of new extras, a fine video transfer, and solid audio, Fox has done a fine job of porting the film to Blu-ray. Highly recommended!

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-50

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
  • 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only)

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.40:1

Audio Formats

  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • French 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Spanish 5.1 DTS
  • Portugese 5.1 DTS

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • English Subtitles
  • French Subtitles
  • Spanish Subtitles
  • Portuguese Subtitles
  • Chinese Subtitles
  • Korean Subtitles
  • Thai Subtitles

Supplements

  • Directors' Commentary
  • Screenwriter's Commentary
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Alternate Endings
  • Featurettes
  • Trailers

Exclusive HD Content

  • None

Related reviews