A bomber is targeting the Miss America beauty pageant and Agent Matthews selects tom boy Fed Gracie Hart to go undercover as a contestant. First, however, Gracie must be shown the ropes by disgraced pageant expert, Victor Melling.
Over in America, this slight comedy restored some of Sandra BullockÆs box office lustre. A genuine crowdpleaser boasting a charming star turn, Miss Congeniality is indeed difficult to dislike, but hey, sometimes it's worth the effort.
Much more believable as a beauty queen than a scruffy, ill-mannered Fed, Bullock snorts sweetly and falls off high heels very well. Which is just about enough to carry the first 30 minutes. After that it would be nice if the script gave her something else to do.
There are some incidental pleasures away from the leading lady: the screenplay mines broad comedy from the all-American crassness of beauty contests - although the film won't criticise them too far; the banter between Bullock's bumbling cop chums is amusing; and the growing rapport between Bullock and Caine's gay makeover expert is nicely, if programmatically, played out. Moreover, it's good to see Candice Bergen and William Shatner shine as fading pageant hosts. That said, there is a completely inconsequential feel to the whole exercise.
There are too many storylines, too many characters, too much sentiment: Miss Congeniality is a prime example of moviemaking by committee, a disease which kills comedy in particular. Each teeny character has their own little arc, each identifiable audience demographic is pandered to with a story beat here, or a cameo there. Baloney.
Do we care whether the shy contestant who befriends Bullock comes out of her shell? Do we care if Caine's character restores his pride and prestige? Do we even care if Bullock and Bratt get together?
No matter. This is not a complicated story - it's about a tom boy Fed who shaves her legs in order to go undercover at a beauty pageant, gets into a few scrapes, falls over a lot. And whenever director Petrie remembers this fact and points the camera at his engaging star, his film is good, easy-on-the-brain fun.
Gossamer-thin entertainment of the sort that would make for an inoffensive first-date movie. Nice to see Sandy back on home turf, but this is unlikely to give Julia Roberts sleepless nights.