No one among the Hoovers quite has it together, but it's not for lack of trying. Father Richard, a hopelessly optimistic motivational speaker, is desperately attempting to sell his 9-step program for success--without much success. Meanwhile, the Hoovers' "pro-honesty" mother Sheryl is constantly harried by her family's eccentric secrets, especially those of her brother, a suicidal Proust scholar fresh out of the hospital after being jilted by his gay lover. Then there are young Hoovers with their unlikely dreams--the four-eyed, slightly pump, seven year-old would-be beauty queen Olive and Dwayne, an anger-fueled, Nietzche-reading teen who has taken a staunch vow of silence until he gets into the Air Force Academy. Topping off the family is the grandfather, a foul-mouthed pleasure-seeker recently kicked out of his retirement home for snorting heroin. They might not be the picture of the perfect mental health, but when a fluke gets Olive invited to compete in the fiercely competitive "Little Miss Sunshine" competition in California, the whole Hoover family rallies behind her. They pile into their rusted-out VW bus and head West on a three-day tragicomic journey filled with madcap surprises and leading up to Olive's big debut--which will change the entire misfit family in ways they could never imagine.