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Movie Review

Miss Congeniality

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual references and a scene of violence

Reviewed by: Hillari Hunter
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
Genre:
Action, Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
2000
USA Release:
_____
Sandra Bullock in “Miss Congeniality”
Featuring: Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, Candice Bergen, Marc Lawrence, Michael Caine
Director: Donald Petrie
Producer: Katie Ford, Bruce Berman, Ginger Sledge, Katie Ford, Sandra Bullock
Distributor: Warner Brothers

Gracie Hart, an FBI agent, is picked to go undercover as a contestant in a beauty pageant when it’s discovered that a mad bomber may cause a disaster there. However, Gracie (Sandra Bullock) is very tomboyish, and sneers at anything feminine. Once inside the glitz and glamor of the pageant, Gracie and her FBI colleagues race to find out who may be out to fatally bring the curtain down on the other contestants.

“Miss Congeniality” is an action-comedy, but there’s little action. The focus is on Gracie’s attempts to appear feminine so as to not give herself away to the other contestants. It is not explained why Gracie is such a tomboy, only that she’s always been one. There are the usual scenes of catty backbiting among the other beauty queens, and wisecrack comments against beauty contests in general. The pageant organizer (Candace Bergin) is a former beauty queen who has serious doubts about Gracie passing herself off as a contestant. Her character makes a couple of insults against feminists and intellectuals who put down beauty pageants. The best moments are the disagreements between Gracie and the snide pageant consultant (Michael Caine) who has been hired to turn her from drab to fabulous. William Shatner has fun playing the egotistical host of the pageant. Benjamin Bratt’s character is set up to be Gracie’s possible love interest, but there is not much chemistry between the two.

There are mild sexual references, including a couple of gay jokes. The violence is mostly bloodless fist fights. Coarse language is sparse. This movie is very light and fluffy, and it goes a long way on Ms. Bullock’s natural charm. It’s not exceptional entertainment, but a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

Read our review of the sequel to this movie, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous.


Viewer Comments
…a sweet non-preachy movie about restored feminity. It is also a funny satire on the beauty pageant industry. But unlike, movies such as Drop Dead Gorgeous or Smile, it is not mean-spirited. When the film begins, bookworm Gracie Hart has already earned a reputation as a dork. She is a brain and she has a good left hook. Unfortunately, she also happens to be a girl. This is not a good combination as many a rejected “dork-brain” girl knows. When she grows up, she is played by the likeable actress Sandra Bullock. As one of the guys in the male-dominated FBI, she still doesn’t need to be gorgeous. But neither can she be gorgeous when she is not at work. It is soon clear to us that the character has made a kind of inner resolution to avoid being feminine. She not only is not in touch with her feminine side, she doesn’t even have female friends or dates. Her job is her life. Enter the Citizen. The Citizen is a kind of bomber who is equally alienated from society. He sends notes to the law-enforcement agencies hinting at his next bombing target. This time his target is the Miss Universe beauty contest. Or—as the event’s organizer would say—the scholarship contest. Gracie, who has bungled a case, now has been called into action to become something she hates: an all-American girl. She has to mouth sweetness, purity, and light. She has to be sensuality, softness, and princess material. Something she is already uncomfortable with because her own feminity was so rejected when she was younger. Sandra Bullock has always been one of the few Hollywood actresses with an ability to play normal looking women. She is immensely likable and her plight probably mirrors the lives of many alienated women in the world. In the end, her feminity is restored to her and she has a job with the boys. Christians should like this movie. Some people might be offended with a few profanities and two exclamations of our Lord’s name. But for a typical Hollywood movie, this film is relatively tame. There is a lesson in self-defense, but little violence. The film is a film about emotional healing, a restored image, and a return to community. What could be wrong with that? My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3½]
—Carole McDonnell, age 41
I saw this with my 6th grade grandson. We both agreed that it is funny. He thought it could use more action—gunfights, etc. He also said it could have been better for children if there weren’t profanities. It could have been better for ANYONE without the profanities, vulgarities, and innuendoes, but that’s Hollywood. Since Ms. Bullock directed herself in this movie, it definitely had the look of a vehicle to show off aspects of her talents she hasn’t been able to display before. She IS a cutie and did a pretty good job on this movie. Definitely discuss it with your child if he/she sees it. Be sure he/she understands that it does not reflect Christian moral values, but that it does reinforce standards of right and wrong in society. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
—Marty Akin, age 63
This was a very cute PG-13 movie which is not always easy to find these days. Very funny and clever, something to go see on a girls day out. A few sexual references, but nothing really offensive. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Melissa, age 15
I thought this movie was great! It is very low on cussing compared to many PG-13 movies today. I’ve seen it twice and laughed all the way through it both times. Sandra Bullock is an awesome actor! I recommend this for a family or date movie, there is nothing in it that will make anyone uncomfortable. This keeps you laughing for a week. My sister and I continue to sing the songs and say quotes daily. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—April, age 15
I went to see this movie with one of my friends and we both thought it was really good. It had some scenes where they took God’s name in vain, but I thought it was pretty good. When you compare it to many of the movies that Hollywood has put out in the past, this movie was very clean. I think that I’d see this movie with a girlfriend, but don’t take a guy unless their pretty open to it. It’s not really a big chick flick, but it’s still probably a movie you’d want to see with the girls. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Keersten, age 14
I felt that this movie was incredibly good in comparison to the majority of movies released in today’s world. Yes, there were some references made that shouldn’t have been. And yes there was some foul language. However, most movies today are at least ten times worse than that. There are NO SEXUAL SCENES which is a major plus. Gracie, the main character played by Bullock, was extremely interesting. Bullock was excellent. She proved that she was comfortable tearing down the “Beautiful” girl image she holds and playing a character that has no clue about being a Barbie doll. Even after she is all made up, Gracie still lets her inner beauty shine, which is the best kind of beauty that one can possess. The story ended as a love story which could be foretold at the beginning. Basically, Gracie learns a lesson in grooming, the pageant industry gets a lesson in inner and outer beauty, and her partner in crime learns that there’s more to Gracie than meets the eye. I give this movie good ratings. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Miss Alesha Ann Brittain, age 19
Since all my favorite movies are from 30+ years ago, I scarcely enjoy any of the movies that come out now… After so many disappointments, I was very glad to finally leave the theater feeling as though my money was well spent… Miss Congeniality had the foul language and sexual references that one should expect in a PG-13 film, but I found it to be oh so moderate considering the loads of trash that manages to fit its way into every other movie of its same rating. I’m grateful that Hollywood chose not to ruin this movie, as they could have easily done, and left out so much of the degrading junk stuff. I would most definitely recommend it. I found the sarcasm throughout the movie hilarious, along with the innocence of the beauty contestants. Any girl should surely enjoy it. My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Rachel, age 16
I saw this movie today because my mom and sister said it was hilarious! I saw and I thought it was so funny! I mean there were some parts in it and took God’s name in vain, but other than that, it was MUCH cleaner than most PG-13 movies. Sandra Bullock was very funny and I enjoyed it. My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—R., age 14
I thought that the movie was very cute! This was one of Sandra Bullock’s best movies. There were some lines that were inappropriate, but if you look past all of that, it was VERY worth seeing. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Kelsey, age 13
I went to see this movie with a friend of mine (around my same age) and we enjoyed it. I would NOT take my kids due to language, but I was not personally offended. There was one brief mention of lesbianism, a few sexual innuendos, but only one on-screen kiss. The rest was funny, and Sandra Bullock plays this part extremely well. Go if you want a good laugh and can put up with some unnecessary language (isn’t all of it unnecessary??). My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
—Christy, age 40
This movie was a total waste of money. Cursing began from the first scene and continued through the movie, with the “g.d.” word being used several times and “Jesus” being used as an exclamation. There were references to immoral sex, lesbianism, the Dali Lama, and so on. Miss Congeniality could have been a decent movie without all of the unnecessary language and sacreligious references. What a shame. My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 1]
—Charlana Kelly, age 38
I saw this movie with a friend and we both agreed it was a total chick flick… but it was great!! The romantic aspect was very clean (other than one remark he makes toward the end) and very cute. There are a few offensive things, and some violence in the beginning, but it was much better than most romantic comedies I’ve seen recently. And it was EXTREMELY funny. I recommend it for a night out with the girls… and if you have an open-minded boyfriend, drag him along. He might just like it! My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—butterfly, age 18
Movie Critics
…a bulimia joke, some sexual references (“No wonder you’re still a virgin!”), including a lesbian contestant…
—Moviemom
…an entertaining movie, but beware of a mild romantic worldview, plenty of foul language, and other questionable content…
—Dr. Ted Baehr, Movieguide
…a number of comical sexual remarks and innuendoes in the dialogue…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…MESSAGE—With a little work, a tough and mannerless woman can be molded into a beauty queen…
—Kids-in-Mind