Miss Congeniality (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

What more do I need to say except - Bill Shatner sings again! 
It's about damned time somebody created a suitable comic vehicle for Sandra Bullock. She's probably the best comic actress in her age range, a very attractive woman, and reputedly a pleasure to work with, so you'd think that she would have had better luck with scripts, but before this, she had made about 1000 consecutive stinkers in the past four years. In fact, despite her obvious comic gifts, she had never made a good comedy at all. Her two best movies, A Time to Kill and Speed, are both dramas. 


This time she got her chance, and she did great. She plays the part of a klutzy, unfeminine, FBI agent who has to go undercover in a beauty pageant to nab a suspected bomber. This turned out to be an ideal vehicle for her to do her physical humor. 

Critics don't agree with me on this. They didn't much like this film, blasting its shallow, cliched plotting and a final five minutes that were as corny as Kansas in August.

  • I agree that the clichéd bomber plot is weak. The plot even ignored the premise they set up in the first scene. Sandra was an agent who screwed up a bust, got a fellow agent hurt, and was on suspension, but they basically dropped that whole concept from that point on. 
  • I also agree that the last few minutes were poor.

But none of that is relevant to the success or failure of the film. Who cares? Get real - did you think they weren't going to catch the bomber? Did you think we were going to see Ray Liotta with his brains being scooped out? Did you think that major characters and innocent bystanders were going to get slaughtered in the process of exposing the criminals? C'mon. Maybe you wanted to see Davy Crockett sodomizing Ol' Yeller, too, in the interest of gritty realism. The plot here was the minimum necessary to provide a framework for the schtick and to avoid stepping on the humor or the light tone of the film. We all knew it was going to work out OK. This wasn't supposed to be Reservoir Dogs.

It's a frothy diversion, and I think the movie works fine as a pleasant time-killer, because of three things:

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1. Good transfer.

  • Full-length director commentary, and a separate full-length commentary from Bullock and the writer

  • two featurettes, which include two or  three deleted scenes and some outtakes

1. Good jokes.

2. Good performers. In addition to Bullock, Michael Caine, Bill Shatner, Candy Bergen and others provide plenty of laughs. Shatner is hilarious as the clueless host of the pageant. He's been good in several recent comic turns. It's really a shame that he didn't decide to be funny much earlier in his career. Well, he was always funny, but I mean intentionally. By the way, he does sing the pageant theme in this movie, he mostly talk-sings, in his over-the-top Mr Tambourine Man type of singing.

3. Good character interaction to support the humor. This is not a zany genre spoof like Airplane, but a character-driven comedy, so it requires more than just jokes. Bullock and Benjamin Bratt do a good job at creating credible characters out of the two dedicated FBI agents who are sort of in love, but don't know it. The realism and warmth of the two performers really tops off the comedy and makes the entire concept work. Bratt did an especially good job in a thankless role. After all, who wants to play the straight man? Everyone wants to do jokes. But Bratt concentrated on making his character interesting and real, and that really grounded the film. 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars or less. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 2/4, Maltin 2.5/4, Apollo 70.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 36% positive overall, only 25% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.8 Apollo users a very impressive 83/100.
  • With their dollars ... it did great. More than $100 million domestic gross. The moviegoing audience loved the film, even if critics did not.  
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Solid little character-driven comedy.

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