Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong

Even since seeing Little Miss Sunshine a week ago, I’ve been trying to figure out why I liked it so damn much — why a movie that didn’t really have any jokes, and even at times felt like a James L. Brooks movie, could feel so fresh and moving and funny. And the thing is, it was so much better than Spanglish or As Good As It Gets. But it wasn’t the pitch-perfect dysfunctional characters that made it truly memorable. Nor was it the the broken-down yellow VW bus that carried them on their cross-country journey. No, after much pondering, I’m quite sure that it was the one character who I’d never heard of before, the pudgy little girl who’s determined to win the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pagent. Steve Carell, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, and Alan Arkin are all great, but it’s Abigail Breslin who helps the film transcend the category of heartfelt ensemble comedy.

Not since I watched a little kid named Spencer Breslin carry a Bruce Willis movie called The Kid has a child actor seemed so brilliantly, unimpeachably innocent. And wouldn’t you know it! — Spencer’s little sister is none other than Abigail. To add to my affection for the Breslin family, it turns out that they have a connection to my hometown, Summit, NJ. In this month’s Rachael Ray mag, Spence recounts a day in his eating habits while visiting his uncle in NJ and stopping in Summit:

We always bring my uncle fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers from Russo Mozzarella and Pasta (212-254-7452), an Italian market near our apartment in Manhattan. Then we make two important stops in Summit, New Jersey, where my mom grew up, first at Natale’s Summit Bakery for the best cake and Italian bread. (I had my 14th birthday cake made there with the Grateful dead logo in the center.) Then we get sandwiches at the Towne Deli. My mom and I love their special Sloppy Joe sandwiches: deli meat, coleslaw and Russian dressing on three pieces of rye bread. These are the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. My dad likes a roast beef sub and my sister, Abigail, always gets a plain turkey sandwich on plain white bread.

I’ve long suspected that Towne Deli Sloppy Joes, which I too subsisted on for much of my childhood, gave me an almost supernatural cuteness. Of course, I never capitalized on the cuteness at the time, but current child actors of New Jersey, I hope you’re taking notes.