Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Watching: Little Miss Sunshine

With Toni Collette, a geeky kid and a climactic talent show, this could have been called About A Girl.

The world can always use another Alexander Payne movie, or, failing that, a decent imitation. This was a pretty good imitation of Payne's roadtrip movies, Sideways or About Schmidt.

LMS was actually directed by the team that made all those Smashing Pumpkins videos a few years back. Like Payne, they hold their characters at arm's length, although they do display a little more affection, or at least sympathy, for them than he does. The visual style is full of bright, sunlit exteriors and deadpan composition that sets up little moments of pure comedy without jumping up and down about how clever they are, as, for instance, Wes Anderson and his growing legion of copycats sometimes do.

This was the second movie I watched this week where big laffs were generated by how hard it was for the characters to start a beat-up, broken-down automobile. The other was The Gods Must Be Crazy, one of the funniest movies ever made.

This was not one of the funniest movies ever made, but that's a tough standard. It was good, though. It found its own sweet spot where it was funny without being too cutesy or quirky, and without the edge and pre-teen painfulness of, say, Welcome to the Dollhouse. Steve Carrell really held this movie together, without having much dialogue or any character development at all. Good for him.

I was sure that the geeky kid's music during the talent show finale was going to be Baby Got Back, and I wasn't far off. The actual choice was slightly tamer, though. Even so, I have to strongly disagree with the lady at the library who told me that it would be something that my daughters could watch and enjoy. (They didn't, although Prima did come downstairs during the thrilling conclusion. We sent her back to bed.)

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