by Jason Whyte
There's a key scene in Miss Congeniality that proves that this movie is a dud, a scene where beauty pagents are all asked what they wish for, and we get edit after edit of beauty pagent after beauty pagent wish for "world peace." Undercover FBI agent Gracie Hart, who is after a serial killer and is touted with this question, replies with "Harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan." Silence lingers over the audience, as Gracie catches herself and says "And world peace." The audience jumps into cheers, as if they are as sheepish as the answers of the beauty pagent contenstants.That scene in the movie is the complete attitude of "Miss Congeniality." It recycles one unfunny joke after another, and I was pressed to laugh at something, anything, but did not laugh; a brief chuckle here and there as William Shatner and Michael Caine, two excellent comic actors, ham it up, but otherwise nothing.
"Before Two Weeks Notice, there was...."
Bullock's FBI agent, Gracie, begins tomboyish, loving to eat bad food, keep herself untidy and be a "guy," and she's tough. A horribly unfunny opening scene shows a young Gracie battling a school bully, and later Gracie battling one of her co-workers (Benjamin Bratt), proves this.
When a serial killer is found near a beauty pagent in Texas, Gracie is sent undercover as a contestant to find him. This involves a complete makeover and attitude change for Gracie, which seems impossible, but by the magic of a gay designer (Michael Caine) she is able to do it. Then Gracie becomes friends with all of the contestants, including a beauty (Heather Burns) that may or may not be what she appears to be.
I like Sandra Bullock, and even though I haven't exactly liked all of her movies, she's worked as the kind of "Girl Next Door" with a nice charm to her. There's none of it in this film, which is just stilted smartass and snotty laughter one reel to the next. It doesn't help that Benjamin Bratt as one of her partners, is about as comic as balsa wood (his reaction in an early scene to a computer program that places dresses on FBI agents proves that Mr. Julia Roberts is only here for one thing - his looks). Candice Bergen, who has been looking for work since TV's "Murphy Brown" went off the air, should have kept looking. The only saving graces are Michael Caine and William Shatner. Caine has whatever fun he can with an underwritten role, and Shatner, who I last saw on a hilarious bit on the Conan O'Brien show and in "Free Enterprise," is hilarious as the host, who hams it up whenever the camera is on him.It comes as no surprise that the person responsible for this mess is Donald Petrie a well-known comedic director, who has done many awful comedies for studios that include "Richie Rich," "My Favorite Martian," and "Mystic Pizza," and has had a hit with "Grumpy Old Men" and that's about it. "Miss Congineality" is a complete failure and a waste of 110 overrlong minutes of celluloid.
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originally posted: 07/09/04 00:01:25