Australian Council on Children and the Media

Little Miss Sunshine

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Short takes

Not recommended under 15 (Lang. Themes. Sex. Drugs)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Little Miss Sunshine
  • a review of Little Miss Sunshine completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 16 October 2006.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not recommended due to coarse language, themes, sexual references and drug use.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Little Miss Sunshine
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Moderate coarse language, Moderate themes, Moderate sexual references, Infrequent drug use
Length 102 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin), aged seven, loves beauty pageants and unexpectedly wins the local contest forcing her family to take her on the long journey from Albuquerque to California to compete in the national ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ Contest. Her father Richard (Greg Kinnear) is an unemployed motivational speaker who believes that the world is divided into winners and losers and that his family are all going to be winners at any cost. Mother Sheryl (Toni Collette) is accepting and tolerant of everyone and believes children should know all the facts and truth about everything and to make their own choices and decisions in life, which she will support. This includes defending her older son Dwayne (Paul Dano), a follower of Nietzche’s philosophy who has taken a vow of silence and hasn’t spoken for nine months. Dwayne hates everybody and his goal is to become a fighter pilot.

The family also incorporates foul-mouthed, sex obsessed Grandpa Hoover (Alan Arkin) who was kicked out of a retirement home for taking heroin. Uncle Frank (Steve Carell) also comes to live with the family as he failed in a suicide attempt and needs to be looked after. Thus the whole family set out on the trip to California in a dilapidated Kombi van which is their only means of transport. What transpires is both a very funny and heartbreaking journey as this dysfunctional family overcome many obstacles to reach the truly awful and highly hypocritical Little Miss Sunshine Contest.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Family conflict, Body image, Death and suicide

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

Although no violence is actually shown in this movie, there is reference to Uncle Frank’s attempted suicide, and he is shown shortly afterwards in a hospital gown with his wrists bandaged.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

There are some scenes in this movie that could disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Olive gets left behind at one stage until the family realise she is missing.
  • Dwayne won’t speak and hates everybody.
  • Olive’s parents are constantly arguing and shouting at each other.
  • Dwayne has to share his room with his Uncle Frank, and leaves him a note that he mustn’t kill himself tonight.
  • Grandpa dies during the journey and the family has to wrap his body in a sheet until they can contact an undertaker.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be scared or disturbed by the scenes described above.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

There are some scenes in this movie that could disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Sheryl explains to Olive that Frank tried to commit suicide because he was very unhappy. When Olive asks Uncle Frank why he was unhappy, he explains that he was in love with a young man who didn’t love him back.
  • Dwayne discovers he’s colour blind during the trip and goes berserk. He kicks and screams and runs out of the car. His first speaking words are full of hatred and venom for his family.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Some children over the age of thirteen could be concerned by the discussions of suicide.

Product placement

None

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Grandpa’s advice to Dwayne is to fuck lots of women in his lifetime, not just one or two.
  • Grandpa’s says that if a woman asks him to fuck her he wouldn’t be able to because he’s too tired.

Nudity and sexual activity

Grandpa buys pornographic magazines which show bare breasts and buttocks.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Grandpa snorts heroin
  • Sheryl smokes

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

frequent use of:

  • ‘fuck’

occasional use of:

  • Goddamn
  • Oh my God
  • Jesus
  • arse

In a nutshell

Little Miss Sunshine is a black comedy aimed at adults. It exposes the hypocrisy in children’s beauty pageants as well as the myth of winners versus losers. The main messages from this movie are that so called ‘losers’ can be winners too and that body image is irrelevant in the broad scheme of things.

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