Film review: Miss Congeniality (2000), directed by Donald Petrie
Some of the films I review here you’re probably saying, “I can’t believe you’ve not seen it before!” and this is probably one of those, because no, I haven’t previously seen Miss Congeniality. The film is about Gracie Heart (Sandra Bullock), a female FBI agent who isn’t exactly “lady-like”. When there’s a threat to the Miss America contest, the FBI needs an agent to go undercover, and the only suitable candidate is of course Gracie. She’s brought to the contest kicking and screaming, because she prefers comfortable shoes and intelligent conversations, not stilettos and hairspray.
To get her un-feminine ways corrected, they get Victor Melling (Michael Caine) on the case – he’s a veteran in the beauty pageant business and if anyone can turn this ladette into a lady, it’s him. Meanwhile Eric (Benjamin Bratt), Gracie’s partner at the Bureau, is helping out behind the scenes while the two try to figure out who is sending out the threats to the pageant TV show, hosted by Kathy Morningside (Candice Bergen) and Stan Fields (William Shatner). When Gracie isn’t spending the nights practicing being a lady and the days prancing around on a stage or showing off her talents with glasses, she’s getting to know the other contestants. Maybe there’s more to them than being airheaded bimbos after all …
Miss Congeniality is a very enjoyable film. I’m definitely more like Gracie than any of the other contestants (just not as extreme), and I love Sandra Bullock. That woman is a gem whenever she does comedy, because she’s just genuinely funny. Michael Caine is another brilliant actor, regardless if he does comedy or serious roles, and is always a real treat to watch. Shatner … well, maybe in the 1960s.
In the end, it’s a feel-good movie that shows you that even if your talents are unusual, you can still make a valid contribution, and that people might be shallow, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a heart. And so on. I couldn’t be less interested in beauty pageants and I cringe at the mere thought (unless thoughts stray to Father Ted and his “…Of course they all have lovely bottoms!”), but as entertainment goes, it does the trick.
The love element I’m less convinced about. Gracie is completely ignored, just seen as one of the lads, until she dons an evening gown and puts makeup on? What sort of a message is that? Couldn’t he have noticed her great sense of humour, her dedication to her job and to people before that? It’s almost, but not quite, as stupid as Grease. (A movie I thought was pretty cute until I realised what the message in it was: “you’re not good enough as you are, you have to have a whole personality change to suit someone else, and only THEN you’re fit for purpose”. WTH?!)
But other than that, it’s a bit of lighthearted entertainment, Sandra Bullock shines and gets to show some girl power in a traditionally less-than-brainy setting. Pretty average, so 3 out of 5 swimsuit editions.