It's a good thing Sandra Bullock knows her strengths and weaknesses, because without Bullock as star and producer, Miss Congeniality
would be an insufferable mess as opposed to being a mildly enjoyable trifle that is custom-made for Bullock's established screen persona. Only Bullock's fans could really appreciate this fluff (even then they'll wish its ripe premise had been more intelligently handled), but it's not without some highlights to accompany Bullock's reliable charms. Here she plays clumsy, nerdy FBI agent Gracie Hart, who is given the horrific pseudonym Gracie Lou Freebush (one example of the movie's juvenile tendencies) when assigned to infiltrate a beauty pageant to investigate threats of a terrorist attack.
Transforming Bullock from frumpy to stunning is a piece of cake (although she gives pageant coach Michael Caine a run for his money), so the movie's premise is trivial at best. More enjoyable is her character's uncouth disdain for pageant contestants and her mistaken perception that they're all a bunch of bimbos. The movie nicely charts Gracie's realization that her own pageant makeover provides a much-needed ego boost. In addition to Caine's effortless scene-stealing, pageant host William Shatner and organizer Candice Bergen are smart choices for comedic support (Shatner's a perfect Bert Parks wannabe), but the movie desperately needs a credible foundation for its comedy to really pay off. Bullock's bureau boss (Benjamin Bratt) is an unconvincing dimwit, and none of the plotting is as smart as say Beverly Hills Cop in combining procedure with laughs. That leaves Bullock to carry the burden of a comedy that just barely works in her favor. --Jeff Shannon
Bullock/Bratt/Bergen/Shatner ~ Miss Congeniality