Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Miss Congeniality (2000)

Tonight I caught up with Sandra Bullock as MISS CONGENIALITY, which I'd never seen before. I was surprised to realize this film is already a decade old! I found it quite enjoyable -- it fit the bill as amusing light Saturday night entertainment after a busy day.

Bullock plays Gracie Hart, a tomboyish, uncouth FBI agent who has apparently never touched a hairbrush. Gracie is improbably assigned to go undercover at the Miss United States pageant, and it's up to longtime pageant consultant Victor Melling (Michael Caine) to transform Gracie into pageant material.

The movie's "ugly duckling into swan" sequence will be familiar to those who have seen later films such as THE PRINCESS DIARIES (2001) or THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (2006). Caine is a gem in this, and Gracie's transformation is fun, even if we've seen it done before or since. He and Bullock have a nice screen relationship, and these two characters are at the heart of the film.

Although we see a flashback to Gracie's childhood, we never really understand why Gracie is the way she is. However, Bullock gives the role as written all she can. The role has shades of WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING (1995), another film in which she played a scrappy loner who finds a happier life.

The movie does a wonderful job lampooning TV pageant broadcasts, thanks in large part to William Shatner as Stan Fields, the hokey pageant host who is being forced into retirement, and Debbie Nelson as Stacey, the pageant announcer. Candice Bergen also stars as the longtime pageant head. She's funny, although ultimately her character proves to be so over the top as to be unbelievable. Bergen and Shatner later appeared together in the TV series BOSTON LEGAL.

Heather Burns (YOU'VE GOT MAIL) is cute as Miss Rhode Island, the dimwitted baton twirler who befriends Gracie. Burns also appeared with Bullock in TWO WEEKS NOTICE. Other pageant contestants are well played by Deirdre Quinn, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Asia De Marcos, and Melissa De Sousa; they do a good job differentiating their characters in limited screen time.

Benjamin Bratt is unfortunately way too bland as Eric, Gracie's FBI boss, and there's zero sparks between the two characters. The cast also includes Ernie Hudson, Steve Monroe, and John DiResta.

Parental advisory: This film is a relatively mild PG-13 for language and some risque references which may possibly go over the heads of younger viewers.

This film runs 109 minutes. It was filmed in New York and Texas. The movie was directed by Donald Petrie (MYSTIC PIZZA), son of highly regarded TV director Daniel Petrie (ELEANOR AND FRANKLIN).

MISS CONGENIALITY has been released in multiple DVD editions. I watched the Deluxe Edition which comes with many extras, including two commentary tracks, featurettes, and a trailer. The trailer, incidentally, shows that Edward Herrmann (GILMORE GIRLS) was originally in the film as Bullock's father, but he's nowhere to be seen in the final film.

MISS CONGENIALITY came out long enough ago that it also had a release on VHS.


Blogger monty said...

One of my favorite Sandra movies. Glad you enjoyed it Laura. But don't waste your time on the is a mess.

4:47 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Monty...I've heard the sequel's pretty bad -- I wasn't impressed with the "preview" on the MISS CONGENIALITY DVD. Thanks for sharing your feedback.

It's too bad, partly as they filmed it in Las Vegas and I'd enjoy seeing a movie with some of the locations we saw on our recent visit.

Best wishes,

12:28 PM  

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