Little Miss Sunshine
"Little Miss Sunshine" is one of those smartly crafted, well-acted movies that makes you laugh, think and feel — and yet just falls a little short of greatness.
It is a great first attempt by music video directing couple (they're also married) Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and first-time screenplay writer Michael Arndt. Where it falls flat is where it should be strongest and that is in its characters. They are all a bit too cookie cutter — they come off as subjects, not people.
All the actors deliver heart-warming performances, but they lack depth. It's something you might not notice in a lesser movie.
For instance, Richard (Greg Kinnear) tries to tell his daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) that eating ice cream will make her fat, and thus not a winner at the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant. The scene is awkwardly and darkly funny, but it shows the lack of character development — Richard doesn't seem to understand the damage he is doing to his daughter.
The new directing couple shows a flair for keeping the film moving crisply. The screenplay is well-paced, and Steve Carell is hilarious as Olive's suicidal uncle. It's just sad that "Little Miss Sunshine" wasn't the ray of sunshine it could have been.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Prepare for another round of pop culture quotes spilling out of everyone's mouths: Will Ferrell is back in familiar comedic territory with "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." The funny man's career has taken off, as is clear from the film's finishing at the top of the box office in its first weekend. It really couldn't have been more deserved of the top spot.
Few characters, aside from "Family Guy's" Peter Griffin, are quoted as often or in as many varied ways as Ferrell's are by young fans. No one from Ferrell's long tenure on "Saturday Night Live" is remembered as fondly — by a very, very long shot. Ferrell has created a collection of classic comic characters, from his cow bell-toting band member on "SNL" to Frank The Tank in "Old School" to Ron Burgundy, the now-legendary news anchor who taught us all how San Diego got its name.
In "Talladega Nights," he brings us Ricky Bobby; or as his rival Jean Girard (co-star Sacha Baron Cohen) would say in his incredibly accurate, but wonderfully inaccurate, French accent: Riekay Boubaey.
Ricky might not be as strange a character as Ron Burgundy, but he sure has his quirks and his one-liners. His argument with his self-proclaimed "hotty wife" over whether or not he should pray to baby Jesus or grown Jesus is rolling-on-the-floor funny.
Ferrell has a way of taking something that could be totally bland — NASCAR, for example — and creating a character who at once insults, compliments and captures perfectly the flaws and triumphs of what in the end is your American every man.