Miss Congeniality Movie Review

It takes some doing to make a beauty pageant flick that features an intellectually vapid caper plot while being a slap in the face to feminism. When asked (within the movie, I mean) to defend pageantry from this accusation, Sandra Bullock simply shrugs it off and says, "Well, they're not all airheads, and I've made some friends." Forget the fact that nine out of ten women in the film act like vicious bitches to Sandra's character -- a New Jersey FBI agent named Gracie Hart -- and shrug off the fact that each of the contestants is painted to have all of the intelligence of a Pokemon character on a good day. Never mind all that. Sandra has learned that beauty pageants are really scholarship contests and really aren't harmful to feminism.

Miss Congeniality starts out with Gracie as a New Jersey kid kicking ass on the playground and getting the obligatory "ugly duckling" bit when she slugs a guy to protect a potential boyfriend -- only to be shunned because she was too tomboyish. Of course, the ugly duckling grows up to be an adult tomboy (though a dead sexy one at that). The portrayal is stereotypical: frumpy hair, two dates to her name, a punching bag, and a penchant for pints of Ben and Jerry's. To her credit, Sandra Bullock pulls off the deal pretty well, but how she can live with herself after playing such an odious role is beyond me. (She gets paid a lot of money, that's how. -Ed.)

Gracie works at the FBI and, after a sting operation that goes slightly sour after she saves a Russian mobster from choking, she's placed on a desk job until a letter from a Unabomber-like terrorist called "The Citizen" arrives, threatening the Miss United States beauty pageant. The horror! Gracie promptly gets shipped off to Austin, Texas, where, with the help of pageant consultant (imagine that on your business card) Vincent (Michael Caine), she is turned into a prim and proper lady who investigates the pageant by going undercover and becoming fluent in Ditz.

Of course it isn't only the women in Miss Congeniality that get the barbs. All the male FBI agents are painted as ogling idiots, whereas all of the other men in the story are either gay, androgynous, or psychotic. Think of it as Stereotypes for Dummies. Hell, they even throw in a finalist being pulled off the stage for admitting her lesbianism.

To give the devil its due, Miss Congeniality may be just about the most offensive flick of the year, but it also has something of an acrid wit. Bullock is actually watchable (unlike her normal tour de crap), and the movie does have its share of barbs directed towards beauty queens, but this is far outweighed by the fact that Miss Congeniality is just plain nasty. If you're going to be this offensive in a comedy, you know, Chris Rock or John Leguizamo offensive, you have to attack the stereotypes, not embrace them. And it better be damn funny, too. And that Miss Congeniality ain't.

What the hell; if you're at your local multiplex and everything else is sold out, why not brainwash yourself by revisiting the gender/role stereotypes that people have been trying to kill for decades and watch Miss Congeniality. Or actually use your brain for once and see something a little more intelligent. Maybe try the Discovery Channel.

The new Special Edition DVD includes the soundtrack on CD, plus the feature with loads of extras -- deleted scenes, commentary tracks, making-of documentaries, and more, including a sneak peek at the upcoming sequel.

Priceline's got... beauty queens!


Miss Congeniality Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG-13, 2000


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