Best Road Trip Movies: Little Miss Sunshine Review
Not all road trip movies are created equal. You have your classic feel-good flicks, your nightmare-inducing horror movies… and then you have Little Miss Sunshine, which is one of those movies you can watch repeatedly and keep finding new things to love. If you’ve never seen the movie, you ought to—it’s a witty, strange movie with wonderfully weird characters that break away from the norm, and it also happens to be a pretty sweet road trip movie.
Little Miss Sunshine focuses around seven-year-old Olive Hoover (portrayed by Abigail Breslin), who wants more than anything to win the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in Redondo Beach, California. While Olive isn’t your typical pageant girl, she truly believes she can go up against the other competitors and come out on top. Not ones to stand in the way of their daughter’s dreams, Olive’s parents Richard (Greg Kinnear) and Sheryl (Toni Collette) set out from their home in Albuquerque along with Sheryl’s suicidal gay brother (Steve Carell), Olive’s emo brother Dwayne (Paul Dando), and Richard’s heroin-addicted father (Alan Arkin). What follows is a road trip of epic proportions that tails the seriously dysfunctional family across state lines as they battle to reach the pageant in time for Olive to compete.
The family makes their way from New Mexico to California in one of the coolest of road trip vehicles ever: a Volkswagen Type 2 bus. The very first Type 2 rolled off Volkswagen’s production line back in 1949. It quickly gained popularity, and found its niche with hippies in the 60s and 70s. Today, when we think of the VW Type 2, we tend to think of a more carefree age, where people drove their VW buses to Woodstock and similar festivals, and used them to take low-cost camping trips. In Little Miss Sunshine, the VW bus easily fits the entire family. Unfortunately for them the bus isn’t in the best shape (along the way, the clutch breaks, the horn gets stuck, and the back doors fall off). However, the VW bus remains a solid choice for such a large group, and the family eventually makes it to Redondo Beach just in time for Olive to compete in the pageant.
The Volkswagen Type 2 bus is just about the most perfect vehicle to appear in Little Miss Sunshine. The family’s falling apart at the seams, so it only makes sense that their vehicle is too. The VW bus is known as being a slightly abnormal vehicle, especially in today’s world where production of the bus is kaput. It’s almost like the bus is a metaphor for the Hoover family, which might appear fairly normal on the outside, but inside is full of addiction, depression, and general loserdom. Quite honestly, the movie wouldn’t be as good had the writers chosen a different vehicle for their road trip.
Catherine Hiles (she/her) is a native Brit living and working in Dayton, Ohio. Cat has written about a variety of subjects, including finance, cars, and parenting. She is a frequent contributor to Dayton Mom Collective and The Penny Hoarder.
Cat lives with her husband, their two kids, and their energetic pitbull mix. She counts running, lifting weights, walking, and reading among her hobbies. See more articles by Cat.