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Miss Congeniality (2000)

Miss Undercover

Unpolished. Unkempt. Unleashed. Undercover.

Directed by:

Donald Petrie

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 109 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Country: United States

There’s been a terrorist threat at a beauty pageant, and the FBI need to pick one of their agents to send undercover and keep an eye on the girls. But who will they choose? Who in their ranks could possibly pull off beauty queen status? Will it be the fatso shovelling pies down her trap at the back of the office? Or the 60-year-old looking for one last big showdown before she retires into permanent grannyhood? Or, here’s a wacky idea: why not pick Agent Gracie Hart, THE ONE WHO LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE SANDRA BULLOCK??

Okay, so being in her late 30s she’s pushing it a bit age-wise, and it does look like she could do with a bit of a wash. But come on, it’s Bullock for God’s sake – and the fact that she’s almost passed over for the job because all the blokes in the office think that she’s a complete munter is just one of the instances where some major suspension of disbelief is required to comfortably take in ‘Miss Congeniality’.

Still, this being Bullock’s film (she co-produces it as well as taking top billing), her character does, of course, get the gig. So before you can say “world peace is for suckers”, she’s off to slip into a slinky dress and – with a little help from slimy co-worker Eric (Benjamin Bratt) and make-over mogul Victor Melling (a campy Michael Caine) – save the day.

Of course, the whole thing’s completely ridiculous, but that’s not to say it’s unenjoyable. Bullock is probably one of the most likable leading ladies in Hollywood today, and she has a genuine talent for comedy. She’s tailor-made for the role of deep-rooted cynic Gracie, and manages to wring the best out of some very average material. Another of the performers on top comic form is William Shatner as pageant MC Stan Fields. Frankly, Shats is brilliant at comedy, and I only wish he’d spent more time doing it in his younger years instead of wasting his career making all of those appalling cardboardy space movies.

This is far from the most memorable of films, but it’s a tidy, competent number which director Donald Petrie keeps moving along nicely. If you’re a lover of beauty contests and all they stand for then Bullock’s relentless piss-taking might irk a little but – let’s face it – you’ll be used to it and, if you’re into that sort of nonsense then you probably deserve it anyway. So there.

It's Got: A swimsuit parade.

It Needs: A pool.

DVD Extras Two audio commentaries (choose from either The Bullock with screenwriter Marc Lawrence, or director Donald Petrie), a couple of quickie documentaries (‘Preparing for the Pageant’ and ‘The Pageant’ – it would be much easier if they were just one longer programme, but then it wouldn’t seem as good a boast on the cover, would it?), a trailer, and cast & crew (no bios though – so, in other words, it’s basically just a useless list of names which you can get just as easily by skipping to the end credits) DVD Extras Rating: 5/10

Alternatives:

Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, Two Weeks Notice, While You Were Sleeping

Summary

The story’s a load of Bull – but Sandra’s just about funny and likable enough to pull it off.

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