They were the little family that could, taking on all comers — and quite a few dysfunctions — to make its way from New Mexico to California for an improbable shot at pageant glory. But do Olive, Frank and the rest of the gang from "Little Miss Sunshine" have enough gas in their beat-up yellow VW microbus to make the even more unlikely journey back to multiplexes?
"I hope not," "Little Miss Sunshine" co-director Jonathan Dayton said of a rumored sequel to the sleeper hit. "I feel like the movie was a great gathering of people, and kind of a perfect experience. We were all making it for love, not knowing what would happen. To go back and do [another] after all that would be a totally different thing."
Screenwriter Michael Arndt, who won an Oscar for the "Sunshine" script — one of two gold prizes the flick picked up (see "Marty's Party: Scorsese, 'Departed' [And Effie Too] Get Oscar Gold") — was even more emphatic.
"These characters are at the end of their stories," he insisted.
Of course, audiences have heard that line before, and Arndt should know as well as anyone that those denials don't always hold true. A decade after their last film, Buzz, Woody and the rest of Andy's toys return to theaters in 2009 — with Arndt as the primary screenwriter.
"I started meeting with Pixar in the summer of 2005, when 'Little Miss Sunshine' was being filmed. They had read the script and really liked it," Arndt said of his involvement in the upcoming "Toy Story 3." "When I was starting out, I was writing alone. Pixar is such a great, collaborative place — they're all such incredibly smart guys. [Working with them] changed my life."
With Arndt decidedly uninterested, co-director Valerie Faris suggested that, in the spirit of films like "Babel" (which followed a well-traveled gun), one possible entry into a sequel would be to simply follow the bus.
"Maybe it could just be the car. [The Hoovers] have gotten rid of the car and a new family takes it," she joked.
Faris and Dayton were less playful about their next directorial project, a film that comes with real satiric pedigree but manages to stay "pretty serious," Dayton said.
"We're working with Tom Perrotta, who wrote the novels 'Little Children' and 'Election,' " Dayton revealed. "He's got a new book that's not out yet, but he's adapting it himself. It's called 'The Abstinence Teacher,' [about] a sex-education teacher in high school."
Known for his biting portrayal of high school politics in "Election," Perrotta has managed to touch on hot-button issues without delving into pure derision, the directors said.
"It takes on some pretty serious issues: faith and politics and sex and love," Faris said of the book's themes.
"But it's not a satire — at least we won't treat it as that," Dayton added. "It's a comedy with dramatic aspects."
"Casting has already begun," Dayton said of "The Abstinence Teacher." No target filming date has been announced.
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