Vicky Jenson's grainy Little Miss Sunshine spawn starts promisingly, with Carol Burnett as a caftan-clad coffin dodger inhaling oxygen and a bag of Cheetos. But it turns out the movie belongs to sapphire-eyed Alexis Bledel's Ryden Malby, an earnest go-getter who after failing to nab her dream job returns home to her eccentric family and the googly gaze of her musician buddy (Zach Gilford).
Screenwriter Kelly Fremon dresses up the pabulum about following your passion, appreciating weirdness, and valuing ice cream with fitfully funny subplots. After all, this clan is kooky! Still, the shifts from wacky to tender feel manipulated, and there's never any question where Bledel's excessive eyebrow knitting will lead.
And though supporting players Jane Lynch, Michael Keaton, and Burnett make a valiant go of it, the film, perhaps a casualty of its own meandering aspirations, never graduates to anything special.