A decade before the crop of turn-of-the-millennium beauty-pageant flicks -- Drop Dead Gorgeous, Beautiful, and Miss Congeniality among them -- this hothouse flower of a comedy said most of what needs to be said about the subject, and it did so with a good deal of wit and style. Featuring the indelible comic troika of Holly Hunter, Mary Steenburgen, and Alfre Woodard, Miss Firecracker is at once a bittersweet character study, a slapstick send-up, and a lighthearted riposte to Miss America ideals. Fresh from the double triumph of Broadcast News and Raising Arizona, Hunter gets her hands dirty as trashy, determined Carnelle Scott. Steenburgen and Woodard, meanwhile, play her haughty cousin and her oddball helpmate with two very different but complementary forms of comic acuity. Tim Robbins turns in fine work in the supporting role of another of Carnelle's cousins, while the other fictional and real-life denizens of Yazoo City, MS, help sketch out the script's backdrop of small-town Americana. As gaudy and over-the-top as a real-life pageant, the film probably won't do much for audiences who prefer restrained realism. But the dynamics between the principal players ring so true that the film remains winning even at its shrillest moments.
by Brian J. Dillard review