Miss Congeniality

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(2000) ★★★

TCM: Saturday 15 August, 3pm

Now this lady’s funny. When FBI sources surmise that mad anarchist The Citizen is going to strike next at the Miss America beauty pageant, tomboy agent Sandra Bullock is given an undercover assignment – Grace Hart becomes Gracie Lou Freebush, the New Jersey contestant. But it’s going to take more than lipgloss and a bikini wax to make the bolshy Bullock a viable entrant. Snooty pageant co-ordinator Michael Caine is called in to do a Professor Higgins makeover, though even he harbours reservations: “How can I take a woman without a smidgen of estrogen and turn her into a lady? With intensive work she’ll be ready for the world’s finest trailer park.” Bullock buffs up a treat, of course, in an amiable comedy that pokes fun at vanity and stereotyping. The FBI operation – codenamed Thong, just to aggravate Bullock – behind the scenes at the San Antonio Alamodome provides almost as many chuckles as Bullock’s game impersonation of a beauty queen. Fusspot MC William Shatner looks baffled when she answers his stock question “what is the one thing our society needs?” with the curt response: “Harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.” The auditorium is bemused into silence, too, until – following a pause Pinter would be proud of – she adds “…and world peace.” Cue raucous applause. With chocolate chip ice cream stains on her scruffy white blouse and tangled hair of hedgerow proportions, Bullock’s Grace snorts when she laughs and reacts to put-downs with physical assaults. She’s very funny. And the dialogue’s not bad either. When fellow contestants object to Grace providing a midnight feast of pizza and beer for the nervous Miss Rhode Island, she snaps back:  “It’s light beer – and she’s going to throw it up anyway.” The sequel bears repeating, too. ITV2 has Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, Sunday at 6.45pm. It’s been three weeks since the beauty pageant and Bullock’s fed up with fan mail and chocolates. Now she just wants to hit someone. It’s a genial Hollywood con-trick sequel that just about gets by on Sandra’s winning ways. And she keeps the snorting to a minimum this time.

Certificate: 12

Duration: 106min

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