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Miss Congeniality

"Miss Congeniality" on DVD

Like a Bullock in a China Shop

Sandra Bullock produced and stars in this delightful tale of an ugly duckling who becomes a beautiful swan while foiling an attempt on the life of a beauty queen.

Bullock is FBI agent Gracie Hart, a competent operative who, though she tends to go off half-cocked, is respected like "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. In short, this movie is everything that Sally Field's "Beautiful" could and should have been if it could have gotten its political agenda off his shoulder.

There's 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 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 in what's basically a pretty straightforward part.

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 "restrained scenery chewing" as Bergen's show host sidekick.

As might be expected, this is really Sandra Bullock's movie and she rises to the occasion beautifully - literally. She never takes herself seriously, allowing herself to be "uglified" in the film's opening scenes, then displaying her ultimate feminine potential when she metamorphoses into Miss New Jersey.

Even as the "beautiful swan," however, she never takes it seriously and 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 "Miss Congeniality" expecting an empty headed piece of crap and instead were treated to a funny and intelligent comedy we enjoyed a heck of a lot.

The DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 compatible, and Dolby Digital 5.1. Picture quality is a tad soft, but that works to the film's advantage, giving it a kind of dreamlike quality befitting the subject material. The audio quality is good, though the bass comes through a tad boomy at times, and for no apparent reason. On the whole, however, it doesn't detract from enjoying the film.

Extras include a couple of nifty documentaries and a pair of full length audio commentaries (one with Bullock and the screenwriter, the other with director Petrie). There are also cast/crew notes and the trailer.

Miss Congeniality, from Warner Home Video
110 min. widescreen (1.85:1) 16x9 compatible, Dolby Digital
Starring Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, Benjamin Bratt, Candice Bergen, William Shatner, Ernie Hudson
Produced by Sandra Bullock
Written by Marc Lawrence & Katie Ford & Karyn Lucas, Directed by Donald Petrie.


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Updated May 13, 2006