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Miss Congeniality

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Miss Congeniality

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Candice Bergen
Director: Donald Petrie
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 118 Minutes
Release Date: December 2000
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Heather Burns, Ernie Hudson, John DiResta, Melissa Desousa, Benjamin Bratt, Michael Caine, William Shatner

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1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
2.  Susan Granger read the review movie review
3.  Dustin Putman read the review movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
4.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

Sandra Bullock, as FBI field agent Gracie Hart, is nothing short of incredible in MISS CONGENIALITY by director Donald Petrie (MYSTIC PIZZA). With large, messy dollops of self-deprecating humor, Bullock makes herself into a real slob. And then in this Pygmalion story, she is transformed into a beauty who is still sometimes a crude klutz no matter how glamorous she appears. Tapping inner reservoirs of comedic talent that even her fans probably weren't aware of, Bullock hits every joke out of the park like she is Mickey Mantle at a Little League game.

Since this film is easily Bullock's best since SPEED, one can hope that this hilarious charmer won't get buried in an avalanche of holiday releases and that moviegoers who aren't in the mood to watch Tom Hanks converse with a volleyball will give themselves the holiday treat of MISS CONGENIALITY.

When we first meet the feisty Gracie (played when young by Mary Ashleigh Green), she is a girl of about 11 who puts up with no guff on the playground. Standing up for the downtrodden and for herself, she slugs anyone who doesn't play fair. Rather than appreciate her spunky defenses, kids shun her.

We cut to the present, in which Gracie (Bullock) has grown up to be a "Dirty Harriet" type of agent. On the bureau's practice mat, she can take down any male agent in a heartbeat, but she is a loner and a workaholic.

Most lacking in Gracie is any sign of grace. She approaches eating with the finesse of a lioness gnawing on a fresh kill. Her laughs are snorts, and she hasn't a clue as to the purpose of napkins. The side-splittingly funny script by Marc Lawrence (FORCES OF NATURE), Katie Ford and Caryn Lucas parcels out sharp lines to everyone, but saves some of the best for the story's star. Although known to love her beer and pizza, Gracie's passion runs to the fattening. "I'm going to get chip-faced," she tells her coworker and temporary boss, Eric Matthews (Benjamin Bratt, RED PLANET), at a bar as she devours a whole pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

In her work, Gracie is known to be a screwup, even if she can run mental circles around everyone in her office. When a serial killer leaves a cryptic note threatening violence at the Miss United States Pageant, she is asked to go undercover as Miss New Jersey. Since this is an honor she dreamed not of, Gracie initially says, "No way!" After all, she doesn't even own a dress, and she views beauty contestants as pathetic airheads.

The pageant's leader (Candice Bergen) and its master of ceremonies (William Shatner) can hardly believe their eyes when told that Gracie would make a credible undercover contestant. Slouching in her chair and scrunching her mouth, Gracie would appear to be an absolutely hopeless candidate for a makeover. Michael Caine is wonderful as Victor 'Vic' Melling, a beauty contest consultant called in to perform a miracle transformation. His version of Professor Henry Higgins and Bullock's version of Eliza Doolittle are delightful and original. Watching Gracie stroll down the sidewalk, Vic tells her, "Oh my God, I haven't seen a walk like that since JURASSIC PARK!" After he bans sweets from her diet, she keeps trying to smuggle donuts in her bra.

When Gracie Hart is transformed into Gracie Lou Freebush -- a name rather like Pussy Galore from GOLDFINGER -- she becomes gorgeous. In a skin-tight, short dress, Gracie looks like a million dollars. But she's still the same Gracie underneath, so she frequently trips in her spiked heels and falls flat on her face. As she views a recording of previous awards ceremonies, Gracie mocks the mentally-challenged constants with the WIZARD OF OZ line, "If I only had a brain."

Once at the pageant, she makes friends with some of the ditzy dames, most notably Miss Rhode Island (Heather Burns, YOU'VE GOT MAIL). Poor Miss Rhode Island can't even answer softball questions. When asked about her favorite date, her reply is not dinner, dancing or any other activity but simply "April 25"?

Probably the easily part of a beauty pageant to spoof is the "talent" contest. What is surprising about MISS CONGENIALITY is how they manage to come up with humor about the talent contest that is not only funny but fresh as well. Too bad real-life pageants aren't this much fun. If they were, then maybe the World Wrestling Federation might want to form a beauty pageant subsidiary.

MISS CONGENIALITY runs 1:40. It is rated PG-13 for sexual references and a scene of violence and would be fine for kids around 9 and up.

My son Jeffrey, age 11, laughed hard and often and gave the film *** 1/2. He found the movie imaginative, especially the paint scene. He liked the way that Gracie's character develops, and he thought Sandra Bullock's acting was great.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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