Dir: Donald Petrie. US. 2000. 104min.
Prod co: Castle Rock Entertainment in association with Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment. Dist: Warner Bros/Village Roadshow (Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Cyprus and Greece). Exec prods: Marc Lawrence, Ginger Sledge, Bruce Berman. Prod: Sandra Bullock. Co-prod: Katie Ford. Scr: Lawrence, Ford, Caryn Lucas. DoP: Laszlo Kovacs. Prod des: Peter Larkin. Ed: Billy Weber. Music: Edward Shearmur. Main cast: Bullock, Michael Caine, Benjamin Bratt, Candice Bergen, William Shatner.
After last spring's relatively sombre 28 Days, Sandra Bullock is back in her zany comedienne persona for Miss Congeniality, a, well, congenial comedy that could draw decent - though older-generation - audiences looking for an undemanding date movie. Big box office numbers seem unlikely, however. Despite its strong supporting cast, Bullock's latest outing as star and producer is a scattershot affair in which the humour is as blunt as a butter knife.
Genre-wise, it's a bit of everything. Bullock's Gracie Hart is a no-nonsense, plain-looking (we're asked to believe) FBI agent, part of an otherwise all-male team that has been unsuccessfully tracking a mad bomber. When the bomber threatens to hit the Miss United States beauty pageant, Gracie reluctantly agrees to go undercover as a contestant.
The unlikely scenario leads first to Gracie's astoundingly successful makeover; then to a My Fair Lady episode with Michael Caine as Professor Higgins; then to a spell of familiar beauty pageant satire, with Candice Bergen and William Shatner as the prissy pageant impresarios; and finally to a dose of Tracy-Hepburn-style romantic comedy with Benjamin Bratt as Gracie's colleague-turned-suitor.
Bullock's physical comedy skills provide the film with its most successful moments, though the unbelievable plot sometimes forces her to go over the top. Caine gets little to work with and Bergen even less - and it's a shame that such seasoned performers don't get more chances to interact. The cast suggests some very entertaining possibilities, but this unfocussed, old-fashioned comedy doesn't deliver on any of them.