Little Miss Sunshine is a good example of a ‘comic journey’ story structure.
Genre Blend: comedy, drama.
Little Miss Sunshine uses one of the oldest comic structures, the comic journey. This form goes all the way back to Don Quixote and is really a combination of the comic and myth forms. Part of the success of this combination is that these two genres are in many ways opposites. The myth form, using the journey as its main technique, wants to be big, heroic and inspiring. Comedy is about cutting things down to size, finding the falsely big and poking a hole in it. So in a comic journey story, the myth sets up the laughs (puffing up the characters), while the comedy provides the punchline.
— John Truby
For fans of another well-known drama set in Albuquerque, fans of Breaking Bad may be interested to know that both Bryan Cranston and Dean Norris have small roles in Little Miss Sunshine.
There’s a ticking clock in this film because the pageant has a set date and time. To the outsider, the stakes are low. But for this family, a successful time together means all.
Little Miss Sunshine uses two techniques that are especially valuable: the endpoint and the family.
— John Truby
Self-revelation, need, desire
In the first scene we see a little girl’s bespectacled eyes watching a Miss America pageant on TV so we see that she desires to be a beautiful winner of a pageant. For more on the significance of this opening shot, see this video by Now You See It: Opening Shots Tell Us Everything.