banner image

:: Miss Congeniality

Sometimes the previews are better than the movie. Or, all the best scenes are already in the trailer, so nothing is new when you actually see the film. Thankfully, Miss Congeniality doesn’t fit into either of these categories. In fact, the trailers don’t do justice to this truly funny film.

The film doesn’t have the most original plot in the world - - it’s The Ugly Duckling, Pygmalion, and My Fair Lady in a modern context. Sandra Bullock (Forces of Nature, Speed) plays Gracie Hart, a childhood tomboy who has parlayed her intelligence and physical ability into a career as an FBI agent. Gracie doesn’t have an ounce of femininity in her entire body, and doesn’t have any respect for “girlie” women. When the FBI receives a letter from a domestic terrorist, they are led to believe that the Miss United States pageant will be the next target. The agents know that the best way to protect the pageant participants is to put one of their own in the contest. Hart ends up being the only agent that fits the bill, at all. But, in order to be a convincing contestant, she must get some major beauty treatment and some lessons from pageant consultant Victor Melling, played by Michael Caine (Quills, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.) She takes on the persona of Gracie Lou Freebush, the new Miss New Jersey, and heads for San Antonio, Texas along with the other agents to catch the terrorist without ruining the pageant. There she meets her fellow contestants and witnesses all the trappings a major beauty pageant entails.

What is great is not what happens in the film, it’s the way it happens. The film is laugh out loud funny. It mixes familiar sitcom-style humour with more highbrow jokes, and great physical comedy (think Frasier meets I Love Lucy). It wasn’t annoying or idiotic, and the laughs were not few and far between. Besides hilarious performances from Bullock and Caine, the film boasts great supporting players Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown) as the Pageant Coordinator, and William Shatner (Third Rock From the Sun, StarTrek) as the pageant’s cheesy host. The straight man of the film is Hart’s fellow FBI agent played by Benjamin Bratt (Traffic, Law & Order.)

There are scenes that have been described in early foreign reviews of the film and that appear in the film’s trailer that are not in the current version playing in Australia. They seem to have been scenes that establish Bullock’s character, which could use some more depth. One can only assume that these scenes would have met that end. It’s hard to imagine why they were cut, except that the film runs close to the crucial two-hour mark for films beyond which audiences find it hard to pay attention, and cinema owners complain at not being able to show the films more times in one night. While Miss Congeniality is not the most sophisticated or original film ever to come out, it is the funniest Hollywood offering in a while. What it lacks in depth it makes up for in belly laughs.