Donald Petrie’s Miss Congeniality (2000) is a superficially whacky comedy that takes on the beauty pageant circuit with equal portions of humor and insanity and, for the most part, walks away with the crown. The film stars ingénue beauty, Sandra Bullock as Gracie Hart – a rough and tumble, utterly uncouth and not terribly feminine FBI agent assigned the task of infiltrating the Miss United States pageant before a cryptic terrorist wreaks havoc on the event.
At first, Gracie’s superior Eric Matthews (Benjamin Bratt) isn’t entirely certain she’ll be able to pull it off. However, after her uni-brow and bad weave are tamed by pageant stylist/consultant, Victor Melling (Michael Caine), Gracie emerges as a tempting and viable contender for the crown.
With the complicity of the pageant’s coordinator and president, Kathy Morningside (Candice Bergan) and the show’s host, Stan Fields (William Shatner), Gracie enters as Miss New Jersey and thereafter makes herself the most unlikely of contestants.
On reflection, the most engaging aspect about the film is its adversarial relationship between Victor and Gracie – he, from the old guard / she - his unwilling accomplice in her own transformation from goofy masculine geek to ultra feminine chic.
Benjamin Bratt is amiable enough, but his character tends to suffer from not enough to say. Is he Gracie’s boss or aspiring lover? The screenplay by Marc Lawrence, Katie Ford and Caryn Lucas never can decide, but makes minor reference to such a possibility in a scene by the pool.
As scripted, the film is fairly mindless fluff, but fun nevertheless. Sandra Bullock and Michael Caine have real, if slightly adversarial, rapport. Their ultimate admiration for one another is affecting and joyously cynical at the same time. The script paints a fairly broad stroke of unflattering opinions about pageants and those who participate in them. Virtually all are treated as socially stunted, empty headed, flaxen haired Cupi-dolls with narrowly a thought for anything outside their diets or how they'll look in a swimsuit...oh, and of course, their mutual pledges for 'world peace'! In the end, Miss Congeniality is minor entertainment; modestly cute, slightly idiotic, but easy enough on the head and heart.
Warner Home Video’s Blu-ray is a solid visual presentation. Colors are bold and vibrant. Flesh tones are quite natural in appearance. Contrast levels are perfectly realized. There is no grain to speak of for a very smooth characteristic. The image is sharp. Fine details are evident throughout. Minor edge enhancement visible on the DVD is not present on the Blu-ray. The audio is a DTS remastering and fairly aggressive. Extras include two truncated featurettes on the making of the film and a theatrical trailer as well as an audio commentary.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)