Miss Congeniality

Directed by Donald Petrie
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, Michael Caine, Candice Bergen, William Shatner, Ernie Hudson.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual references and a scene of violence.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
December 28, 2000

If you would have told me in the beginning of this year that of the two beauty pageant movies coming out in 2000, the Sandra Bullock one would be far better than the Minnie Driver one, I would have called you insane. How could Bullock, the queen of bad choices, end up with a better film than Driver, one of my very favorite actresses, whom I respect for taking on difficult roles and executing them with talent and grace. Well, I never said I was psychic. Who could have known that Beautiful would turn out so bad, or that Miss Congeniality could overcome a tired undercover formula and actually be entertaining?

Bullock plays Agent Gracie Hart, an unabashed tomboy for the FBI. The bureau received another letter from a serial bomber, and they need an agent to go undercover at the Miss United States Pageant. Agent Eric Matthews (Benjamin Bratt) is in charge of the case, and he goes through pictures of all the female agents, and none seem to make a convincing beauty queen. Using some kiddie software, he virtually dresses up Gracie in a dress -- just for laughs -- but he finds that she could fit the bill.

Of course, this will require a big makeover. The bureau hires legendary pageant consultant Vic Melling (Michael Caine) to make Gracie into a believable contestant in just a couple days. Gracie now must enter a hyper-female world, where obsession with appearance and food control lives, and no goal is greater than winning a tiara -- but she can barely walk in high heels.

Basically, it's a one-joke film, but it is a well-executed joke. Most people would think that it would be difficult to believe Bullock as anything other than a glamorous movie star, but she plays her role convincingly. It is her performance that really keeps this film from going downhill like so many before it.

Michael Caine is nothing to sneeze at, either. I believe this is his first gay role, and he plays it beautifully. He is not an obvious casting choice, but it manages to work, just like this film. There's nothing very original about it, and even the title gives away the cute little ending (yes, she really does get the title of "Miss Congeniality" after saving the day), but there is an energy in the cast and a joy of performance that makes the film itself enjoyable.

As much as I enjoyed this film, however, I don't think I need to see any more beauty pageant movies for a while.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Miss Congeniality (2000)

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Miss Congeniality (2000) -- VHS
Miss Congeniality (2000) -- DVD
Miss Congeniality: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc

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