Little Miss Sunshine (2006): Vacation Without Chevy Chase

What more can be said about road movies featuring families? Get a bunch of wacky characters together in a confined space with a vast land to give a variety of adventures and let them go. Too bad this was done to perfection thirty-four years ago and repeated to death so much that my heart is a cold, stony ground from which no love of the family travel movie will grow.

Little Miss Sunshine is the story of a family driving to a beauty pageant two states away. Dad (Kinnear) is having money troubles. Brother (Dano) is a silent wreck. Uncle (Carrel) just got out of the hospital for suicide. Grandpa (Arkin) is a foul mouth mess. Mom (Collette) is dealing with all these assholes. While on the way, they learn to be a family again.

On the surface, a great film with a lot of heart. The ending dance number is inspired, the path every character takes is earned, and damn that kid is cute as a button. But my heart is closed to the love and admiration they give each other. For they are not Griswolds.

My family took road trips every summer. My dad, mom, sister, and I would pile into the car and drive. We went to amusement parks, national forests, and one time a castle. My memories of my experiences tie with deep recognition the John Hughes classic tale of a family traveling. At the end of our journeys, surely, no lessons were learned other than the world continues. The family abides. Death is near.

The black specter follows us all. As one passes on, more follow. Each of us has a time and that time is unknown, be it on the road or within our hearts. Cold silence follows and the future will crumble like rain in the darkness.

A nice little movie about a family, Little Miss Sunshine passes the time in a delightful hour and a half. The enjoyable plot will not remind you that chaos is inevitable and each of us is falling toward the depth of horror. Hold each other close and muffle the screams with hugs.