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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 


When the infamous, self-styled bomber and arsonist, ‘Citizen’, targets the upcoming Miss United States Pageant, the FBI plants one of its own agents, the unlikely Special Agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock), as a contestant working under cover; she’s the only one at hand who could conceivably pull it off in a swimsuit – with a lot of help from long time pageant consultant Victor Melling (Michael Caine) whose job is to transform an accident prone, gum chewing, pageant-despising tough nut into a world peace loving beauty queen. And her job is to not only pass muster on live television, but to help apprehend the crazed bomber who threatens the lives of the contestants.

 "Don’t mess with this FBI agent – Sandra Bullock’s Gracie is more interested in action than fluttering her eyelashes. You could say (with a smile) that she introduces a new low in feminism. But she does it with such style and Bullock rivals Julia Roberts for any Hollywood comedy role. Uplifting, funny and very entertaining, Miss Congeniality is a good natured romp with a superb cast and plenty of pizzaz. Starting with a surprisingly good script, the laughs are genuine and plentiful. While the premise may not be original, the performances are charismatic and the delivery so darn enjoyable, that it's a blast from start to finish. In fact, there's much more to Miss Congeniality than initially meets the eye. This is a film that truly knows where it's going; it's well directed with great production design and the soundtrack will put your toes into automatic tapping mode. It's a rollicking ride and at the end there's a great payoff, showing lots of heart. Sandra Bullock is simply irresistible, displaying great comedic flair with impeccable timing. It's a terrific, energetic performance and the conversion of her ugly duckling FBI agent with brains to discover her brawn is a treat. She easily glides from tomboy Gracie’s sarcasm with a gun to a believable swan whose vulnerability is on show. Michael Caine is divine as the gay makeover man; wait till you see him flash his lipsticks, while emulating the FBI agent flashing his badge. Benjamin Bratt works well with Bullock, while Candice Bergen and William Shatner (Beauty Pageant MC Bert Newton style) are perfectly cast. There's plenty of schtick and it’s milked for all it's worth. Hidden cameras that peek into the behind-the-scenes of the beauty pageant world bring chuckles galore, and as for the title? You’ll have to see the film to find out the irony and relevance. A fun, feel-good comedy that gives the endorphins a good work out, Miss Congeniality is a delight."
Louise Keller

"In a clever piece of writing and equally deft directing, Miss Congeniality manages to butter both sides of its issue bread while firing on six comedic cylinders. While taking pot shots at beauty pageants, the film reserves enough affection for the process to turn around and pay tribute to the pageants’ values and benefits. In other words it gets us to laugh along with it long enough to earn our trust, and then gently re-aligns our sensibilities to be more open minded about the subject. But this is not the film’s main ambition: it is a comedy, but all good comedies rely on having something to say. Bullock plays a daffy, latter day Doris Day character here, full steam ahead with physical comedy without losing her feminine side. She can still be the leading lady while tripping on her high heels. Bullock does it very well. Surrounded by some other class act(or)s, she energises the film with her characteristic ability to swing quickly from abject frump to absolute stunner in the time it takes to load a clapper board. The dramatic content is sidelined for most of the film, although never forgotten, and the essential story retains its edge due to the solidity of key cast, including the highly impressive Benjamin Bratt as fellow FBI agent Eric Matthews. The comedy is beautifully timed and much of it is cackle-out-loud stuff, with a smattering of smiles, grins and even a couple of ho-ho-hos. Frankly, it’s a lot better than I expected, and a tribute to Bullock as producer."
Andrew L. Urban

"I’ve been told by several women that, as a man, I just don’t "get" Miss Congeniality. Without having to personally endure hours of torture in the name of beauty and still come up smiling, I couldn’t possibly imagine the horror – and thus the humour in this film. That’s probably true; but from a male perspective Miss Congeniality is a fairly bland experience, although enlivened by some good acting. Its main problem is that the scriptwriter decided – unbelievably – to give away the whole plot halfway through. The result is that latter stages of the film become laborious and pointless. But the experience is lifted by two solid performances from Sandra Bullock and Michael Caine. Bullock shows great comic touch as the rather gross Gracie, and this film hopefully signals that her days in dire dramas like Hope Floats are behind her. She manages to be equally convincing as both a slob and a beauty queen – quite an achievement. Caine is Henry Higgins to Bullock’s Eliza Doolittle, and pulls off the preening pageant coach with considerable flair. Benjamin Bratt, William Shatner and Candice Bergen however add little to the mix, their roles never rising above the pedestrian. Miss Congeniality features some very funny moments, but they’re mired in a story that lays schmaltz on improbability, and never manages to be truly compelling. It also takes a very confusing view of beauty pageants themselves; seemingly unable to make up its mind whether it’s a parody of, or homage to, them. Although it has major problems, Miss Congeniality is congenial enough, made bearable by the talents of Bullock and Caine."
David Edwards

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HEAR Andrew L. Urban & Louise Keller talk about the film in Real Audio.

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

See our INTERVIEW with Sandra Bullock



CAST: Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, Benjamin Bratt, William Shatner, Candice Bergen

DIRECTOR: Donald Petrie

PRODUCER: Sandra Bullock

SCRIPT: Marc Lawrence, Katie Ford and Caryn Lucas (story), Marc Lawrence (screenplay)


EDITOR: Billy Weber

MUSIC: Ed Shearmur


RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes




VIDEO RELEASE: August 29, 2001

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