Miss Congeniality

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Director: Donald Petrie
Screenwriter: Marc Lawrence
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, Benjamin Bratt, Candice Bergen, William Shatner
Release details: Castle Rock, USA 2000, 106mins
Full details: IMDb
Genre: Romantic comedy
Rating: 8 out of 10

Sandra Bullock not only stars, but also doubles as producer, in this romantic comedy that has no surprises at all but always entertains. The plot - such as is it - involves Gracie Hart (Bullock), a messy, plain FBI agent, going undercover as a contestant in the Miss United States beauty pageant in a bid to foil a terrorist threat from one of the country's most infamous criminals, the Citizen.

Gracie's superior, Eric Matthews (Bratt) decides that Gracie is the only female agent of the right age, but thinks she looks like "a train wreck," so former top beauty pageant consultant Victor Melling (Caine) is hired to transform Gracie - or as he re-names her, Dirty Harriet - into Gracie Lou Freebush, the perfect pageant contestant. This is a considerable challenge, considering Victor sees Gracie as a woman "without a detectable smidgen of estrogen." Pageant Director, Kathy Morningside (Candice Bergen), and MC Stan Fields (a sadly under-utilised William Shatner), are also initially unimpressed with their latest contestant.

Infiltrating the pageant, Gracie becomes the confidant of the other 49 contestants and soon begins to suspect that the Citizen is not to blame for this latest threat, but that the real threat comes from someone closer to the pageant....

It's all quite formulaic stuff as you might expect but there are some real comic highlights, particularly the opening scene where Bullock uses her FBI credentials to get to the front of the queue in Starbuck's and the talent section of the competition, which features Bullock dressed inexplicably in a Heidi costume.

Of course, Sandra Bullock is only ever plain in the movie-star sense of the word, which involves not brushing her hair and wearing unattractive nightwear at home, so it's not much of a stretch for her to become a beauty contestant. It's the same category of suspension of disbelief that allows you to accept that the judicious use of Brylcreem and a pair of glasses stops anyone from figuring out that Clark Kent is Superman.

The relationship between Caine (who, along with Bergen, is clearly enjoying himself tremendously) and Bullock is well-developed and touchingly believable, much more so than the slightly-forced romance with Bratt, which seems tacked on as an afterthought.

This is, however, Bullock's movie and she shines throughout, reminding us why, despite a recent string of disatrous choices (28 Days, anyone?), she remains a solid A-list movie star, one of only 2 female stars who can open a movie themselves, the other being Julia Roberts.

Justifiably a worldwide hit, this is the ideal popcorn movie. Disconnect your brain and enjoy.


Director Donald Petrie (a rom-com veteran) was Emmy-nominated for the LA Law season 1 episode The Venus Butterfly.

This is not the first time Sir Michael has worked with Candice Bergen. They were in the 1968 film The Magus together.

Miss Congeniality was filmed in Bullock's home town of Austin, Texas (including the scenes which purport to be New Jersey), as well as San Antonio, Texas. Some location scenes were filmed in New York city.

External Reviews

On the whole, the films weaves at a leisurely pace, with a few swipes at the fashion industry - although no-one is allowed to take this too seriously because this is a comedy, after all... BBC Online

I smiled during it, and enjoyed Bullock, but then again I got to see it for free, and I'm the guy who thinks "Speed 2: Cruise Control" is a good movie, something not even Bullock believes.... Roger Ebert


Want to know where Sandra Bullock stands in the grand scheme of all things celebrity? Check out her fame audit at