Miss Congeniality Review

Andy Hall has reviewed the Region 1 DVD release of Miss Congeniality

The Movie
A terrorist known only as the “Citizen” has been delivering cryptic messages to the FBI before carrying out murderous crimes. The latest message seems to suggest that the next target will be at the Miss USA pageant. So the FBI decide to send in an undercover operative to pose as a contestant, and after much searching, discover that the person for the job is scruffy tomboy Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock). So Hart is packed off to be transformed into contestant Gracie Lou Freebush, under the supervision of Victor Melling (Michael Caine). Whilst at the pageant, Hart has to learn how to look the part of a contestant, and with the help of her team leader Eric Matthews (Ben Bratt), try to find the “Citizen” before he strikes again.

I recently had the misfortune to watch and review the absolutely dire remake of The Out-of-Towners, the connection with this movie being that they were both scripted by Marc Lawrence. This fortunately, is a much better effort. Bullock and Lawrence have worked together before, on Forces of Nature, and this collaboration works as well as that movie did.

So what’s good about it:
After a series of misfires, Sandra Bullock needed a hit, and Congeniality did deliver on the box office front. This was probably due to the fact that Bullock just does these sort of roles so well. She can pull off both the scruffy klutz and the beauty queen with ease, and is very natural at comedy. Additionally, both William Shatner and Michael Caine turn in very entertaining supporting roles. William Shatner’s turn as the MC of the pageant is very funny, and he is very game to send himself up. Shatner impressed the real Miss USA organizers so much that they have apparently asked him to present the pageant for real. Michael Caine is also very good as the “Professor Higgins” style mentor. Most Important, this movie is quite funny and entertaining.

…and what’s not so good:
Sandra Bullock, although doing a convincing scruffy and clumsy klutz, is supposed to have her character transform into a poised beauty queen in just a couple of days. Hardly very believable. Furthermore, the identity of the villian(s) is completely obvious from almost the first reel of the film. The FBI boss (played by Ernie Hudson) is the same old shouting stereotype who appears in almost every film featuring American law enforcement (surely not all bosses are like that?).

To sum up, despite a few flaws, this is an entertaining and amusing comedy, giving Sandra Bullock a much needed hit. Ignore the story’s often predictabilty and plotholes, and enjoy a lighthearted action / comedy. Sandra Bullock fans will not be disappointed.

This disc features pretty good picture quality, with only the slightest of edging here and there spoiling the show. Lots of colourful scenes are handled well, and the bright stage lighting on the otherwise dark stages look sharp. Not outstanding, but good quality nontheless.

Comedies are not usually known for their big and expansive soundtracks. However, this one gets off to a good start with excellent loud and directional sound during the shootout at the Russian restaurant. After that it’s more business as usual, with the front channels doing most of the work. Still, it’s more than competent for the job at hand.

There is also a French-Canadian 5.1 track on the disc.

The packaging and layout for this disc tends to sell the extra material a little short. On the face of it there are a couple of promo featurettes and a couple of commentaries, but the featurettes are better value than they first seem. Preparing for the Pageant and The Pageant are not only similarly named, they have similar content as well. Totalling about 22 minutes between them, they both feature the usual interviews with the stars and behind the scenes stuff, fortunately with no overlap. But they both also include outtakes and deleted scenes, the latter introduced by director Donald Petrie with explanations why they were cut. Surely it would have been better to arrange the deleted scenes together in the extras menu, separate from the featurettes, as 99.9% of other DVDs do?

There are also two commentaries on the disc. The first is a commentary featuring Sandra Bullock and screenwriter Marc Lawrence. As usual when Sandy does a commentary there is a lot of laughing and clowning about, but this is still a very entertaining and amusing commentary, particularly as she and Marc Lawrence have worked together before, and so know each other well. In amongst the joking they talk about aspects of the plot line, point out continuity errors (though not the Miss Alaska becomes Miss Nebraska one), and have a laugh about recollections of the shoot. You get your money’s worth here as they keep on chatting right up to the end of the very last credit.

The second is a commentary featuring director Donald Petrie. Unsurprisingly completely different in style from the other commentary, Petrie talks more about aspects of the production and direction of the film. Mostly interesting, and compliments the other commentary to tell you more than you ever needed to know about Congeniality.

The theatrical trailer is here, presented in anamorphic widescreen. As often happens with trailers this features a snippet of a deleted scene, to be found in full in the featurettes.

Finally there is the obligatory cast and crew section. Nothing much to get excited about here as this is purely basic filmography lists, and nothing more.

Final Thoughts
Yes, it’s a predictable storyline, but it’s the sort of lightweight comedy that’s tailor-made for Sandy Bullock, and she does these sort of films so well. Amusing turns from amongst others, Michael Caine and Bill Shatner makes this an entertaining comedy. The disc is decent technically, and the extras are a bit better than they first seem. A reasonable addition to your DVD collection.

Andy Hall

Updated: Feb 27, 1999

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