This summer, Warner Brothers Entertainment brings you a comedy that showcases the horrific (and hilarious) world of beauty pageants with "Miss Congeniality". Sandra Bullock stars as Gracie Hart, a woman whose "butch" personality and pitiful dress sense precede her amidst her coworkers in the FBI. When Hart makes a few mistakes, she is condemned to face the wrath of the review board, but a turn of events throws her back into action when the federal task force is faced with the threat of a serial bomber at the annual Miss United States beauty pageant.
Hart thus becomes the perfect agent for the job and takes up the covert assignment to claw her way through a tangled mass of frills and curls as "Gracie Lou Freebush from New Jersey". In an attempt to groom the unwilling Hart, the FBI hirers a professional stylist named Victor Melling (Michael Caine), whose perfectionism drives her to the edge of insanity and questions her real beliefs in the assignment. Melling takes it upon himself to uncover the true beauty beneath "the beast" and tutors Hart in the manner of a beauty queen. Finally, Hart is given the choice of a lifetime and has to prove herself in her glamorous ensemble or exist as an unwitting hindrance to "world peace".
"Miss Congeniality" is a classic example of Hollywood comedy genres and a brainchild of director Donald Petrie. The director has placed all the characters in a livid background of glamour and yet the film's message seems blurred. While the subsidiary character sketches seemingly mock the cliched pageant process, another aspect of the film stands firmly for it. Either way, the actors have definitely given the project their best shot. Michael Caine is wistful and intelligent as the capricious Victor Melling, and Sandra Bullock does her role justice as the formidable Gracie Hart. Other famous personalities like William Shatner and Candice Bergen also crawl out of the woodwork and set the stage for the American tradition.
Like most beauty pageants, the film has its moments of interest...but those moments that are better left to the judge's discretion.This article was first published on 04 Apr 2001.