Movie of the Day

Miss Congeniality

A week ago, I had only heard the title of this film, and had successfully avoided seeing anything starring Sandra Bullock. But I’ve been reading the book Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, in which the author gives this film as an example of a $100 million hit that follows his theory of screenplay structure. I decided to watch it in order to get a better grasp on the book. I could also justify watching a “chick flick” by telling myself that I need to work myself through every entry in Michael Caine’s filmography, even the bad ones.

It turned out that I quite enjoyed this film. There is the requisite romance for any film starring Sandra between her and her FBI supervisor, but thankfully that is pushed to the background and the focus is on Sandra’s transformation throughout the film, and some biting satire of beauty pageants. There is very little storytelling subtlety as we are introduced to Sandra as a slovenly tomboy FBI agent with bad table manners and split ends. When she is determined to be the only federal agent suitable to be sent undercover to the Miss USA pageant, which has had bomb threats, Michael Caine shows up as a disgraced beauty adviser who turns the slob into a beauty overnight. Caine, naturally, steals the show, and has all the funniest lines, delivered with moderate helpings of camp. But we also have Candice Bergen as the queen bee organizer of the pageant and William Shatner doing quite a funny send up of Miss America host Bert Parks. Heather Burns is hilarious as the ditsy Miss Rhode Island, who replies to a question about her ideal date with “I’d have to say April 25th. Because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket,” evidently taken from an actual beauty pageant.

Going back to the book that prompted me to watch this, yes, the film is tightly structured, and, yes, that does help us identify with Sandra’s character and hope she pulls through, but it also makes the film rather predictable. I suppose you don’t watch this kind of film to be surprised, though.

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