This is an off-beat low budget comedy.
It's about a road trip taken by three generations of a family. To call this family dysfunctional would be an understatement. The father is a would-be motivational speaker, the teenage son has taken a vow of silence, the 7-year old daughter yearns to be a beauty queen, the uncle (Steve Carell) has just tried to commit suicide, the grandfather (Alan Arkin) is a potty-mouthed heroin snorter, and the mother tries to deal with all of it. They take off in a yellow VW bus with a broken transmission, driving from New Mexico to California so that the daughter can enter the "Little Miss Sunshine" beauty pageant of the title.
Some of the family problems were actually painful to watch, and though I found myself laughing a lot, sometimes I found it funny and painful at the same time. I would say, though, that I did laugh out loud more during this film than I usually do while watching DVDs (as opposed to watching a movie in the theater, where I'll laugh a lot more).
The film also has a serious point to make about the nature of winning and losing. I didn't realize how much thought had gone into the movie's theme until I listened to the screenwriter's commentary. More clear on the surface is what the film says about the value of loving families, even crazy families like the one in this film.
The extras include two commentary tracks, and some alternate endings.