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MISS CONGENIALITY (PG-13)
Castle Rock Entertainment
Official Site

Director: Donald Petrie

Producer: Sandra Bullock

Written by: Marc Lawrence

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, Benjamin Bratt, Candice Bergen, Ernie Hudson, William Shatner

Rating: out of 5


Well, sometimes it happens that you enter a theater, take your seat, haul out your paper and nifty lighted pen, get set to watch a movie and take notes for your review, and you look down two hours later to a blank notepad.

Such was my response to MISS CONGENIALITY, which could certainly have earned its eponymous award in any movie pageant. As light and airy as dandelion fluff, pleasing as punch, predictable as death and taxes, and as unmemorable as an afternoon under sodium pentothal, MISS CONGENIALITY would be a great movie pick when you need to get your family out of the house and off each other's nerves.

Gracie Hart (Bullock), 30-year-old FBI agent, has to go undercover as Miss New Jersey at the Miss United States beauty pageant-'scuse me, scholarship contest-to catch a master criminal who's bent on blowing up contestants. A complete fashion disaster who's revolted by the idea of becoming a beauty bimbo, Hart resists the efforts of makeover magician Vic Melling (Caine) to transform her into a viable contestant. Though they go to the well too often with the pratfalls, these scenes, where Bullock cracks wise and does her physical comedy thing, are the funniest in the movie. Bullock does this sort of thing nicely, but, as HOPE FLOATS pondered, what becomes of old homecoming queens? I can't see what kinds of roles the future holds for a Bullock in her 40s and 50s.

As fellow agent Matthews, Bratt is so just another pretty face that one wonders why Gracie would give him the time of day. Caine is fun to watch, though he's done this sort of thing much better before (see DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS for scintillating Caine as a man of taste and refinement). Bergen's portrayal of pageant director Kathy Morningside was shrill and winkingly overacted, like she needs to let us know that Murphy Brown is really above the beauty pageant sort of thing. William Shatner continues riffing on his own damn self (see those ubiquitous Priceline commercials) as Stan, Kathy's co-host. Heather Burns was delightful as sweet, airheaded Miss Rhode Island, who becomes Gracie's closest contestant chum.

As for the story, like I said, predictable. It's too damn easy to ridicule beauty pageants and the women who enter them. I haven't seen any of the recent movies about pageants (DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, BEAUTIFUL), so I don't know how MISS CONGENIALITY stacks up. Farther from the ending than you'd expect, the identity of the bomber is revealed. This made me peevish until I reminded myself that MISS CONGENIALITY is not a suspense-thriller, not a police procedural, it's a slapstick comedy.

And what America needs now is a good $4.75 laugh.

-Roxanne Bogucka, an Action Grrl!

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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