Miss CongenialitysMiss Congenialitys on Blu-ray

Like a Bullock in a China Shop

Warner Brothers continues its new trend of releasing double features on a single Blu-ray disc and, as with the Analyze This films, this is another good package.

Sandra Bullock stars in these tales of an ugly duckling who becomes a beautiful swan while foiling an attempt on the life

Bullock is FBI agent Gracie Hart, a competent operative who, though she tends to go off half-cocked, is respected as "one of the boys" by her compatriots. The film opens with her making an error in judgement in a sticky situation, which gets her in the bad books of her boss (Ernie Hudson).

She's assigned to a desk until a hearing can be held, but just as she's resigning herself to a time of paper pushing the Bureau gets a head's up that there could be an attack on the Miss United States pageant being held in a couple of days.

Gracie's the only female available and, though femininity has never been her strong suit, she's assigned to stand in as one of the contestants and get to the bottom of the case.

This kicks off a lively "fish out of water/cinderella" story that combines slapstick, good writing, casting against type, and wonderful performances.

There's some feminist dogma in "Miss Congeniality," but it never takes the place of the story and, in fact, provides for some good moments as Gracie and others discover that there's more to these pageants than being just a major league jigglefest.

A great supporting cast is led by Michael Caine as Gracie's "Henry Higgins," an imagemaker assigned to turn the frumpy Gracie into the beautiful Miss New Jersey. He's wonderful in the part! Benjamin Bratt is also good as Gracie's FBI compatriot, though he doesn't have much opportunity to stretch his acting powers.

Noteworthy is Candice Bergen as a former Miss United States who has a lot more in her background that one might expect. She plays the part as if it were "Murphy Brown," except that she's 180 degrees from her TV journalist role - and though it doesn't sound like it would, it works. William Shatner does his usual "patented scenery chewing" as Bergen's show host sidekick. He's also around in the second film, but as only a glorified cameo.

As might be expected, these are really Sandra Bullock's movies and she rises to the occasion beautifully - literally. She never takes herself seriously, allowing herself to be "uglified" up front, then displaying her ultimate feminine potential when she metamorphoses into Miss New Jersey and, in the second film, the FBI's new public face.

Even as the "beautiful swan," however, she provides some nice pratfalls and good laughs. This movie is a far cry from her compatively awful "Forces of Nature;" while "Forces" should be avoided, "Miss Congeniality" should be seen.

We went into the "Miss Congenialitys" expecting empty headed pieces of crap and instead were treated to a pair of funny and reasonably intelligent comedies we enjoyed a heck of a lot.

The second film picks up basically where the first one left off. Gracie's now famous, though, and this works against her FBI work. So the Bureau decides to cash in on her celebrity by making her their public persona and sending her around the country on promotional visits. Then, her beauty contest buddy and Shatner are kidnapped and Gracie has to save her friend while working against the rest of the FBI.

The audio and video transfers of this new Blu-ray are good but not spectacular. The 1080p widescreen picture (1.85:1 for the first film and 2.4:1 for the sequel)is bright and clean and colorful, but neither movie really pops off the screen. Audio, dts HD Master Audio, is good as well, using all the channels nicely and with pretty good fidelity.

There are no extras, unless you consider an entire second movie an extra.

Miss Congeniality and Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
110/115 minutes, 1080p widescreen (1.85:1/2.40:1), dts HD Master Audio 5.1
Starring Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, Benjamin Bratt, William Shatner, Ernie Hudson, Diedrich Bader, Treat Williams, Candice Bergen

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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