Big hits at the Sundance Film Festival have a history of fizzling at the multiplex. Here's hoping Little Miss Sunshine, a cheery black comedy about a cheerless family on the road trip from hell, doesn't. A critical smash at this year's festival, it sparkles thanks to a hilarious script and splendid acting.
The Hoovers are a spectacularly dysfunctional crew: Dad (Kinnear) is a failed motivational speaker; Uncle Frank (Carell) is a suicidal Proust scholar; Mom (Collette) is barely hanging on; the teen son (Paul Dano) refuses to speak; and Grandpa (Alan Arkin) is a foulmouthed, porn-loving druggie. When the family piles into an aged VW bus to take daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin, in a winning turn) to compete two states away in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant, wacky misadventures ensue. This one may be a dark comedy, but it leaves you feeling sunny and satisfied. (R)