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
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
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
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
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes