Miss Congeniality (2000) — Yeah, we do want to marry you Sandra!

“I haven’t seen a walk like that since Jurassic Park.”

Andie’s rating: If Benjamin Bratt was an agent, I’d be at the FBI academy tomorrow

Andie’s review: Okay, so when I first saw previews for this coming to theaters, I just rolled my eyes. Sandra Bullock is okay, I like her in some movies, but this just looked like another Ugly Duckling-She’s All ThatSon in Law type makeover where they give a pretty girl frizzy hair and glasses and then magically she’s gorgeous. So I didn’t really want to see it. But it came out on video and I decided to rent it and it absolutely cracked me up! I was amazingly surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie.

Firstly, Michael Caine plays Vic Milling, a pageant consultant who is hired by the FBI to make Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) into Miss New Jersey so that she can go undercover at the Miss United States pageant to protect the girls from a terrorist trying to sabotage the pageant. I don’t know who wrote this movie, but the part of Vic was perfect for Michael Caine and he does a wonderful job. He is so funny as a stuffy pageant know-it-all who is absolutely appalled when he meets estrogen-deficient Agent Hart. He doesn’t even try to pretend that he approves of Hart’s style, he just sets about insulting her and browbeating her into a beauty pageant contestant.

Secondly, Sandra Bullock really gets to show off her comedic flair as the fast quipping, witty Gracie Lou Freebush (her pageant alias). As Vic says, “She has sarcasm and a gun,” which pretty much sums up Agent Hart. Bullock also gets to use a lot of physical comedy because she hates wearing a swim suit, she can’t walk in heels, she can’t “glide” along gracefully, and her talent is nothing short of hilarious.

My favorite thing about her is that underneath her sarcastic exterior she really just wants to do her job and she actually cares about the safety of the pageant contestants. She cares so much that she punches one of them to get her to let go of the crown, which contains the bomb the terrorist has planted. She also has this fabulous scene where she emerges after her makeover and she’s strutting her stuff and the song “Mustang Sally” is playing in the background and it’s totally cool and then….she trips and falls down. Classic.

Finally, the girls Agent Hart meets at the pageant are a total crack up. They seem ditzy and catty and a little crazy but they’re really just girls who want to get their issues out there and try to win scholarship money. They’re great and they round out a wonderful ensemble cast, which includes Candance Bergen as Miss Morningside the owner of the pageant and a hilarious William Shatner as Stan the pageant host. Overall, this movie is a terrific surprise comedy. I wasn’t expecting to like it and I definitely wasn’t expecting to laugh out loud so much. My friend Curt, who hates Sandra Bullock with a passion, ended up really enjoying this movie after I made him watch it. So go rent it. You’ll like it.

Justin’s rating: Reminds me of my days on the pageant circuit. I sold popcorn.

Justin’s review: You ever watch a movie and can’t exactly remember what it was about, exactly, a couple weeks after you’ve seen it? But you still carry some vague impression that you either liked or disliked it? Well, okay, I know some people that have this experience all the time, and therefore can watch the same film, over and over, and still be surprised (“Wow, so Jaws was a shark, huh?”). It’s kinda sad to see people like that, with some sort of Cinematic Mental Fatigue Syndrome excluding them from all conversations involving any sort of movie details:

Gary: Man, A Few Good Men kicked serious butt! Don’t lie to me… “I want the TRUTH!”
Dan: Heh… “You can’t HANDLE the truth!”
Gracie: [suffering from CMFS] Was that the one with Rodney Dangerfield?

So we see that CMFS (which is a poor acronym in and of itself, I admit) is a serious problem, and typically hampers any conversation I might have with a friend suffering from it. I mean, how can I express myself outside of movie quotes and references? Original conversation? Forget that.

Thus, I was deeply saddened when I discovered that I had a mild case of CMFS when it came to Miss Congeniality. I rented it not too long ago, remember watching it, remember finding it more funny than I expected… but any details why have long escaped my fragile brain. To my defense, I think this happened because Miss Congeniality isn’t meant to stick in the craw of the mind for any length of time. It’s a mindless combination of any comedy that centers around a police-type figure going undercover in a strange new (and zany!) world to capture a dangerous criminal who isn’t too dangerous since they’re in a comedy. Beauty pageants are a wide open target for jokes, and I’m sure that this didn’t miss a one of them.

I do remember the ending, and it was the only thing that detracted from my fuzzy memory of the film. Listen, it just bugs me when an antagonistic main character pokes fun and ridicules some organization or society circle for an entire flick, then right at the end does a hypocritical 180 and gives a major speech about how he/she has a newfound appreciation for hillbillies/musical theater/Canada/the House of Representatives/Saturday morning cartoons. It just somehow makes all the previous jokes a lot less funny, since we’ve lost the only ally who was on our side, pointing out the foibles of others. Okay, a hearty handshake might be acceptable, but when Sandra goes from a completely outspoken critic of the pageant world to a simpering, bubble-headed member in one final speech, a little part of my heart died. That might have been the result of a Big Mac, I’m not sure, but still, it was disappointing.

Overall, Miss C is perfect if you want to rent something surprisingly funny that won’t stick in your head past 24 hours. And if you have a friend or family member afflicted with CMFS, be gentle and kind as you constantly make references that go way over their head. We’ll send a retrieval squad next week to pick them up for rehabilitation (step one: making them memorize all things Police Academy).

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